Multiple journalism watchdogs have spoken out after four Hong Kong journalists were banned from entering Macau to report on the destruction and clean-up efforts following Typhoon Hato last week.

Four journalists from HK01, South China Morning Post, and Apple Daily were blocked from entering Macau on Saturday, with some detained by the authorities for several hours. The storm caused power outages, severe flooding, and 10 deaths in Macau, with the Observatory chief resigning following the disaster.

Photo: Macau Concealers/Facebook.

On Sunday, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (HKPPA) released a joint statement expressing “deep regrets” over the Macanese government’s actions: “We urge the Macau government to respect press freedom and not to arbitrarily restrict the rights of entry and exit of journalists in Macau,” is said.

The two groups also said that the journalists “were carrying out news reporting duties and had followed proper procedures in entering Macau.”

According to the statement, immigration officials said that the journalists “posed a threat to the stability of the territory’s internal security’,” citing the Internal Security Law.

A notice given to an Apple Daily photographer who was denied entry.

“They were not trouble-makers. It was unreasonable for the Macau authorities to say they posed a threat to internal security. A number of Hong Kong journalists had been rejected entry to Macau in recent years. We have expressed deep regrets over the Macau authority’s arbitrarily restrictive immigration policy,” the statement continued.

They also urged the Macau government to draw up reasonable entry and exit criteria, and asked the Hong Kong Immigration Department to “maintain regular communication with the Macau authorities to ensure the normal entry and exit of travellers who hold Hong Kong travel documents.”

‘No security threat’

Editor-in-Chief of the South China Morning Post Tammy Tam pledged to pursue the matter with the relevant authorities after photographer Felix Wong was denied entry: “We strongly object to the detention of our journalists carrying out their duty to inform the public. They pose no security threat to anyone or anything.”

Photo: Macau Concealers/Facebook.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong has given its support to the joint statement, and the International Federation of Journalists says it is investigating.

The Macau Portuguese and English Press Association (AIPIM) also slammed the ban, saying, “AIPIM finds the explanation given by the local authorities incomprehensible and unsatisfactory and cautions that this move, similarly to previous ones of the same kind, tarnishes the international image of the SAR regarding press freedom.”

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.