Li Keqiang

Police and media must end row

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2011, 12:00am

The police force and the media have very different - but equally important - roles to play in our society. Both work for the good of the community. The police keep our city safe and ensure the law is enforced. The media keep people informed, monitor those in positions of power - including the police - and generally contribute to a free and open society.

There will, necessarily, be times when the interests of the police conflict with those of the media. That is a reflection of the different nature of their responsibilities. But it is important that when this happens, the differences are quickly resolved.

The recent disputes over the press and security arrangements for Vice-Premier Li Keqiang's visit underline the need for better communication between the two. Relations deteriorated with journalists being urged to dress in black earlier this month as a mark of protest against Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung. Tsang had attracted criticism for saying that a police officer accused of blocking a cameraman filming a protest was only reacting instinctively when he saw a 'black shadow' rush towards him. Meanwhile, police officers and their supporters were encouraged to dress in white, apparently to counter the journalists. There were also mobile phone text messages asking supporters of the police not to buy newspapers. A Facebook page set up for this purpose has attracted more than 3,500 supporters.

While everyone is free to express their views and take such action, any escalation of such activities would not be in the public's interest. There is a need for respect and understanding on both sides.

Each, naturally, views the events which occurred during Li's visit from their own perspective. The police argue that they have a tough job maintaining order and ensuring the safety of visiting senior officials, especially at a time when some protesters are becoming increasingly confrontational.

The media, meanwhile, jealously safeguard the freedom of the press and are right to speak up if police officers abuse their powers. There is a need to remain vigilant to ensure the freedoms granted to Hong Kong under the 'one country, two systems' arrangements remain intact.

In the case of Li's visit, the police overstepped the mark. There is a need for lessons to be learned and to ensure that similar problems do not arise the next time there is a visit to Hong Kong by a senior official from the mainland.

But this does not mean the dispute between the media and the police should drag on. The public interest is best served by the institutions ironing out their differences and ensuring that the police are able to do their job without preventing journalists from doing theirs.