The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said freedom of the press and that of protesters should “go hand in hand”, responding to Edward Leung Tin-kei’s doubts on whether it is more important to secure the freedom of protesters or to protect the media’s right to know during demonstrations.
In a statement to HKFP, Shirley Yam Mei-ching, vice-chairman of the association, said: “Only with the presence of journalists and their cameras can the legal rights and freedom of the protesters be protected.” She added that this protection will be compromised when journalists are attacked.
The statement comes after Edward Leung Tin-kei, spokesperson of localism group Hong Kong Indigenous and a candidate for the upcoming New Territories (East) LegCo by-election, said during a forum last Friday that “it is hard to say” if protesters should be allowed to suppress the media.
Leung made this comment when he was attending a by-election forum organised by a student organisation at the University of Hong Kong last Friday. Leung first accused police of beating a Ming Pao reporter during the Mong Kok clashes, saying that it was a sign of the regime “suppressing the Fourth Estate”. But when asked if he agreed with some protesters who blocked journalists from filming the clashes, he responded:
“I believe that if some reporters film close-up images of the protesters during demonstrations, they are actually putting the protesters in danger,” Leung said. “If that person [who was being filmed] was me, I would not mind. But not everyone is like me.”
Leung later posted on Facebook asking whether it is more important to secure the freedom of the protesters, or to protect the freedom of the press.
Several journalists were injured while covering the Mong Kok clashes. A Ming Pao reporter was beaten by police officers despite stating his identity as a journalist. A TVB cameraman was capturing footage of an arson when some protesters blocked his video recorder and injured him with a broken glass bottle. A cameraman from CableTV was hit on the head by thrown bricks. A protester also threw bricks at an RTHK news team, damaging its audio equipment.
The International Federation of Journalists, together with the HKJA, earlier condemned the attacks on journalists when they were reporting on the clashes. It called for an investigation into the incidents and for those responsible to be brought to justice.
The Foreign Correspondents Club Hong Kong said it was unable to comment on the statement as it has not discussed the matter.
A total of seven candidates are contesting the single seat in the upcoming New Territories (East) LegCo by-election. They are: Third Side’s Wong Sing-chi, DAB’s Holden Chow Ho-ding, Hong Kong Indigenous’s Edward Leung Tin-kei, Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, and independent candidates Lau Chi-shing, Albert Leung Sze-ho and Christine Fong Kwok-shan.