RSF condemns journalist assaults as Hong Kong violence escalates

Protesters are sitting at Hong Kong Airport to draw attention to China's extradition bill. Image: Tom Grundy/Hong Kong Free Press

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

As four more journalists were assaulted in the Hong Kong area last Sunday, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the authorities to put an end to the violence against the press.

In the past two months, journalists covering the anti-extradition bill protests were increasingly the victim of intimidation and physical abuse by the police as well as pro-Beijing mobs (see the events in chronological order below).

“Violence against journalists has now become systematic and clearly aims to discourage them from covering the protests,” said Cédric Alviani, head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia bureau.

READ MORE: Hong Kong protests disrupt airport for second day

He urged the Hong Kong authorities to “terminate the violence against the press and launch an independent investigation into the past acts of brutality”.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong (FCCHK) yesterday wrote a letter to Hong Kong Commissioner of Police, Stephen Lo Wai Chung, expressing concern over the latest acts of violence.

Since early June, Hong Kong has seen massive demonstrations against a bill that would allow authorities to extradite residents or visitors, including journalists and their sources, to China.

Two weeks ago, RSF wrote to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, detailing five proposals to restore full press freedom.

In the RSF World Press Freedom Index, China’s Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong has plummeted from 18th in 2002 to 73rd this year. China itself is ranked 177th out of 180.

Attacks against journalists in the past two months:

  • 11 August 2019: Two journalists from Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) and daily newspaper Ming Pao were physically attacked by a group of pro-Beijing mobs in the North Point area, while a Stand News reporter was verbally assaulted and threatened.
  • 5 August 2019: In the Sham Shui Po area, a student journalist fainted after being hit by a tear gas canister shot by the police. In the Wong Tai Sin area, a journalist from Sing Tao Daily was tear gassed in his face. A group of mobsters holding clubs attacked a photographer from online media HK01 in the Tsuen Wan area.
  • 21 July 2019: Two journalists working for Stand News and Now TV are among the 45 people seriously injured in a large-scale attack perpetrated at the Yuen Long subway station by a mafia group dressed in white.
  • 7 July 2019: In the Mongkok area, the police verbally and physically assaulted three journalists from Apple Daily, HK01, and Metro Radio.
  • 1 July 2019: An independent broadcaster, Citizens’ Radio, was attacked and their equipment damaged in front of the staff by unidentified people carrying weapons.
  • 30 June 2019: Multiple journalists from South China Morning Post (SCMP), Stand News and Next Magazine were insulted and kicked during a rally in support of the police in the Admiralty area.
  • 12 June 2019: More than 12 incidents of assault against journalists were recorded in the Admiralty area, including 10 cases of police officers firing tear gas at close range.
  • The Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch project works in collaboration with RSF
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