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Hong Kong police urged to protect media

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns a series of attacks and the blocking of photographers by unidentified people while they were carrying out their duties on August 4, 2013.

On August 4, at least five people verbally attacked, blocked and pushed photographers to the ground when they were recording a scuffle at Mongkok, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Lo Kwok-Fai, of Next Magazine, a subsidiary of Next Media Group, was pushed to the ground by unidentified men three times when he was trying to film the scuffle, which occurred between hundreds of supporters of an outspoken teacher and her detractors. Lo said one of the men who pushed him to the ground claimed to be a retired policeman. Yel Tang of Ming Pao Newspaper was blocked and pushed by the same group of people when he filmed Lo being attacked. The attack was filmed and uploaded to YouTube by a citizen journalist:

"A group of policemen were near us when the harassment began, but none of them came over to stop it," Tang said.

"In fact, many photographers suffered harassment on that day and I feel that such hostile behaviour towards the media has occurred quite often lately."

Tang, who is also an executive council member of the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (HKPPA) added: "Because of that, we are more united and we wish people to know that as journalists, we merely wanted to report the facts. When people embrace their rights of expression, they should also respect people's personal safety."

The IFJ supports our affiliate, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), and the HKPPA in protesting and condemning the attack. Lui Tsz-Lok, convenor of the press freedom committee of the HKJA, accompanied Lo and Tang to the police station to file a complaint and said many photographers complained they were blocked, verbally harassed, pushed and attacked by unidentified people. The HKJA notes that 18 journalists suffered attacks in Mainland China and Hong Kong between the beginning of 2012 and the end of June 2013.

"It is totally unacceptable that police officers did not take immediate action against the attackers when two journalists suffered attacks," Lui added.

The Police Department said a suspect who allegedly attacked Lo had been charged and released on bail.

The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: "After the election of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong and calls for democracy and genuine universal suffrage for the elections of the Chief Executive and Legislative Council in 2016 and 2017, two polarised points of view have emerged in society. As journalists, they have a duty to report to the public.

"Unfortunately, at the same time, cases where journalists are targeted are escalating in Hong Kong. As well as journalists being verbally abused and physically attacked, media owners are being targeted.

"We urge Leung Chun-Ying, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, and Andy Tsang, the Commissioner of Hong Kong Police, to send a clear message to society that press freedom is a fundamental right and is protected under the Basic Law of Hong Kong. In a civilised society, pluralism is the key and people should respect and protect the rights of freedom of press.

"We also urge Andy Tsang, the Commissioner of Police, to demand that all police officers respect and strictly follow the police officers' manual, which sets down that police officers have a duty to protect media personnel while they are carrying out their duties."

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