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Journalist arrested in Thailand for carrying safety vest

Anthony Kwan, who was arrested at Bangkok airport for carrying a safety vest
Anthony Kwan, who was arrested at Bangkok airport for carrying a safety vest


This statement was originally published on on 24 August 2015.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) in calling for the immediate release of a dual Hong Kong-Canadian journalist arrested at Bangkok airport on Sunday, August 23, 2015. The IFJ has also written to the Thai Prime Minister, General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, urging him to withdraw the charges against the journalist.

Kwan 'Anthony' Hok-Chun, a photojournalist with Initium Media Technology, a new Hong Kong-based online media company, was arrested at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok as he was about to board his flight to Hong Kong on Sunday. Anthony Kwan was arrested and charged under the Thai Arms Control Act for carrying an illegal weapon, which was a bullet-proof vest. He will be tried in a military court and could face a maximum of five years in jail.

Kwan arrived in Bangkok on August 17 to cover the bombing at Bangkok's Erawan Shrine and was carrying the bullet-proof vest under instruction of his employer as a safety protection in the field. During the week in Bangkok, Kwan exercised his duties, reporting on the progress of the investigation following the attack.

According to the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand, the charge, which falls under the Arms Control Act (1987), prohibits the possession of military equipment without a license. FCCT has been urging the government to amend the laws for a number of years.

Sham Yee-Lan, chairperson of HKJA, said there is no good reason for the arrest. She told the South China Morning Post "it is very common for war journalists to carry one; it is definitely not a weapon." HKJA has contacted the Hong Kong Security Bureau for assistance for Kwan.

The IFJ Asia Pacific office has written a letter to the Thai Prime Minister, General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, calling on him to immediately withdraw the charges and release Kwan.

In the letter, the IFJ said: "The IFJ supports and advocates the rights of journalists to safe and secure working conditions, including the right to protect themselves adequately in the field. The IFJ maintains that withholding the right to safety equipment from media personnel such as bullet-proof vests and helmets is a violation of the Thai Constitution which commits to the protection of human rights."

"We are also very concerned that the charges against Anthony Kwan are a violation against the rights of all media workers and will further jeopardise journalists' safety in reporting dangerous conditions in Thailand," said the IFJ.

In early 2014, the IFJ launched a campaign calling for legislation to allow journalist to legally equip themselves with body amour for protection while reporting on protests and other potentially dangerous events. This was not without good reason. During those protests, at least 10 local and international media workers were injured. In 2010, two foreign journalists were shot dead as they covered political rallies and in December 2013 a photojournalist was injured by rubber bullets while covering clashes in Bangkok. These incidents all highlight the urgent need for safety equipment for journalists.

The IFJ respectfully calls on Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha to use your position of influence to immediately have all charges against Anthony Kwan withdrawn and let him return to Hong Kong.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • IFJ Calls on Thai Authorities to Issue Licences for Protective Clothing to Journalists ahead of Protests
  • Hong Kong journalist faces charges in Thailand

    "The legal harassment of journalist Hok Chun Kwan is out of step with global norms for journalists' protection and with the security situation on the ground in Thailand," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. "The government should prioritize reforming its outdated arms control act in a manner that allows journalists to reasonably protect themselves and stop harassing the press."

  • Reporter arrested over bullet-proof vest in topsy-turvy Thailand

    "It is unacceptable that a journalist trying to protect himself in a dangerous environment should be prosecuted in this way. Physical safety measures such as bullet-proof vests and helmets are essential for media personnel. We expect the Thai authorities to allow reporters to protect themselves instead of making protection more complicated." Deloire added: "We also point out that journalists who apply for a licence to wear protective equipment rarely get a response from the competent government authorities, which shows that they are being hypocritical. Reporters must be able to avoid being shot like rabbits."

Case history

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