A Hong Kong court has rejected an application from television broadcaster TVB to stop people from assaulting its news crews and damaging its property.

Judge Mimmie Chan said on Friday that there was no evidence to show that TVB was at risk of “imminent harm or injury,” and that a potential injunction would be hard to enforce.

The broadcaster has been targeted by pro-democracy protesters, who accused it of having a pro-government bias and unfair reporting. In a statement, TVB expressed regret over the “unfounded allegations” and attacks on its news crews, vehicles and cameras.

TVB. File photo: inmediahk.net.

“The application for an interlocutory injunction restraining any person from assaulting TVB employees and damaging its properties has been necessitated by the recent attacks of TVB news crew and properties, which have posed risks to the safety of its employees and properties,” the broadcaster wrote.

However, Chan said that TVB failed to prove in court that there was a “real risk” of imminent harm or injury, needed to justify an injunction.

Chan added that no one can obtain a pre-emptive injunction against imminent wrongdoing by merely saying “I fear.”

She also noted that the attacks against TVB over the past few months were isolated cases, and there had been no further incidents after October 7. Some of TVB’s harassers in June and July apologised, while other netizens told people not to injure reporters, she added.

high court
File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The judge also said that there would be challenges in enforcing an injunction – which would apply to members of the general public.

“The Plaintiff’s news crew will be at different locations, at different times, without prior notice; and… its employees and equipment are not easily identifiable because the Plaintiff has, since July [or] August 2019, removed its logo and identification from its vehicles and from the equipment its employees use on-site,” Chan said.

As a result, Chan said she “cannot foresee” how TVB could make sure the people targeted by the injunction can be given notice, especially since it would require TVB staff to make their identities known.

Since the citywide pro-democracy movement began in June, protesters have targeted TVB through acts of vandalism and harassment. On June 27, protesters surrounded a cameraman, shouted insults and shone lights at him. On September 23, protesters defaced a TVB news camera with spray paint.

Meanwhile, TVB vehicles have also been smashed on at least two occasions, including at a July protest in Sha Tin and a protest in August in Wong Tai Sin.

Photo: May James/HKFP.
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Both incidents have been condemned by media watchdog the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

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Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.