A delegation from the Board of Governors of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club led by President Jodi Schneider met on Oct. 10 with representatives of the Hong Kong Police Force.
The meeting stemmed from a letter the FCC first sent to Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai Chung on August 11. It highlighted a series of grave concerns about the increasing number of incidents of police violence against journalists covering the Hong Kong protests and proposed measures that could rebuild confidence between the police and the media.
Since the FCC sent the letter on August 11 and re-sent it on Aug. 27 and Sept. 30, violence against journalists covering the unrest has escalated — as have attempts by police to interfere with press coverage, which is a right granted under Hong Kong law.
Examples the FCC representatives shared with the police included deliberate spraying of tear gas and pepper spray at journalists as well as attempts to stop the media from filming events, blocking cameras and flashing strobe lights at the press while they are reporting on events.
Most concerning has been the case of Indonesian journalist Veby Mega Indah, who has been left without sight in her eye after she was hit by a police rubber bullet. She was visibly identified as a member of the press and was standing apart from protesters at the time she was hit.
At the meeting we emphasised that journalists have taken steps to clearly identify themselves, including adopting yellow vests, carrying professional identification and marking other gear clearly.
Tensions have risen further since the face mask ban took effect on Oct. 5. The FCC’s position, which was made clear to the police representatives, is that journalists are authorized to wear masks when covering protests on the grounds of professional safety.
The exchange was open and frank. Police representatives acknowledged the FCC board members’ concerns about violence against journalists and attempts to interfere with media coverage, agreed to communicate them internally and asked that we continue to engage in dialogue with the police. The FCC welcomes this opportunity as part of its efforts to promote press freedom and the rights of journalists.