Hong Kong journalism groups have condemned an incident where a riot police officer allegedly fired a sponge grenade at a Commercial Radio reporter.
The journalist was covering protests in Mong Kok in the early hours of Saturday during a police clearance operation when he and two officers began to quarrel.
Riot police had demanded all press leave a section of Portland Street when an officer pushed the reporter, according to footage published by Commercial Radio.
“What kind of reporter are you? Are you standing in the firing line blocking bullets for rioters?” an officer said.
The reporter continued to film and read the officer’s operational call sign – an identifying code – aloud. The officer then threatened to arrest him.
Another officer with a projectile launcher approached the journalist and a loud bang was heard.
An officer then shouted: “Fake reporter!”
本台記者今日凌晨約1時，身穿記者反光背心，頭戴貼有標記的頭盔，在旺角亞皆老街採訪期間，被一名警員推撞，記者讀出警員行動呼號，並全程拍攝情況，警員指要作出拘捕，本台記者轉身往朗豪坊方向離開時，背後傳出一下槍聲。其後記者在現場發現一粒海綿彈，背囊亦懷疑被海綿彈射穿一個洞。詳細報道：【目擊者指警察在兩三米距離向本台記者開防暴槍】https://bit.ly/2NORAM7#商台新聞 #向記者開防暴槍 #海綿彈 #旺角 #亞皆老街
Posted by 商台新聞 on Friday, November 15, 2019
The journalist said in response that he worked for Commercial Radio. “Why did you fire at a member of the press?” he said.
As a result, his backpack was punctured and a gas mask filter inside was damaged, though he was not injured. A sponge grenade was found nearby.
Police said in a statement on Saturday evening that the force was investigating the incident and the officer involved had been put on leave.
“In response to the statements of relevant media associations, we reiterate that the police fully respect press freedom. Police will maintain close communication with news media to enhance mutual understanding,” it read.
Media watchdog the Hong Kong Journalists Association strongly condemned the use of force against the press.
“We urge the chief executive to discipline the police force to ensure press freedom is not harmed,” it said.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong News Executives’ Association strongly condemned any form of violence against journalists.
“We urge the police to be restrained and follow up with the incident seriously. Hong Kong needs journalists at this time to reflect the truth to the public. The Hong Kong News Executives’ Association hopes all sides to respect journalistic work and give support,” it said.
Hong Kong has been shaken by 24 weeks of unrest sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill which would have enabled fugitive transfers to mainland China. The protests have since morphed into wider calls for democratic reform and police accountability.
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