A group of journalists conducted a silent protest action at Monday’s regular police press conference, following the arrest of two media staffers on Sunday.
The force cut its live feed of the event after around two minutes, and cancelled the press conference entirely after around 20 minutes.
At the 4pm press event, six journalists sat on the front row and donned their safety helmets.
Chinese characters on their helmets combined to read “Investigate police violence, stop police lies.” The six were from Stand News, Ming Pao, RTHK, In-Media, Initium, and am730.
Police cut their live stream of the force’s Monday press conference after two minutes amid a silent protest by journalists complaining of mistreatment. #HongKong #China #antiELABhk #antiELAB #HongKongProtests pic.twitter.com/AO1PnxyjmH
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) November 4, 2019
Police Public Relations Branch superintendent Bon Ko and the press conference moderator suspended the event after the reporters refused to remove the slogans from their helmets. The moderator asked the six to leave, but they refused.
“We did not do anything that interfered with the press conference – why do we have to leave?” one asked.
Ko responded: “This is not a place for you to protest.”
Ko asked other journalists whether their views were being blocked, but they said no.
At around 4:22pm, Ko said the press conference would be cancelled. Police then switched off the lights. Later, the force said it would brief the public about the details of the weekends’ operations via a Facebook live video at 5:30pm.
On Sunday, Joey Kwok – a freelance photojournalist working for Stand News – was arrested and handcuffed on suspicion of obstructing police as he was taking photos at the mall. He refused police bail conditions and was released at around 4pm on Monday.
Nelson Tang, a journalism student who is a member of the Hong Kong Baptist University Students’ Union Editorial Board, was released on bail after being arrested on suspicion of acting in a disorderly manner in public. He will have to report to the Chai Wan Police Station at a later date.
Ronson Chan, an executive member of Hong Kong Journalists Association and Stand News reporter who joined the action, said the action was not a protest: “Our action was to support two colleagues,” he said. “We only coordinated our clothing to tell the police that… our colleagues on the frontlines have been attacked and arrested.”
Chan said he was disappointed that the police cancelled the press conference, adding that journalists did not wish to make the news themselves.
“But we have become targets of the police. We believe it is regretful and unacceptable,” he said. “Police said they were not targeting journalists. But it was not the case as we see.”
Chan also said that a journalist received a call from a superior, demanding they not to join the action. Chan took the journalist’s place instead.
“I hope newsroom management figures can understand frontline journalists face threats including pepper spray and guns from the police everyday. This is not a joke, the concern is real,” he said.
The Hong Kong Press Photographers Association also urged photographers to use their camera flashes at full power when covering the press conference, in an apparent response to officers shining strobe lights at journalists covering protests. But the protest did not take place following the event’s suspension.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Journalists Association and eight other media groups issued a joint statement condemning police blocking reporters from covering the news: “We urge the chief executive to order the police to stop all acts hindering press freedom,” the statement said.
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