Decision not to file charges over photographer assault is slap at press

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 December, 2013, 4:35am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 December, 2013, 7:03am

Regrettably, the police have decided not to press charges against a man who was filmed assaulting a South China Morning Post photographer on a court assignment, citing insufficient evidence. The outcome falls short of the expectations of a society that respects press freedom and the rule of law. We condemn the violence against journalists and express deep regret that justice has not been served.

Our photographer May Tse was pushed and kicked by Chioo Wing-ming as he left Kowloon City Court after a high-profile trial on October 24. He was escaping from a crowd of reporters with his girlfriend, who was released on a good behaviour bond, after slapping him repeatedly in an attack widely viewed on YouTube. Tse fell over and suffered injuries to her head, forearm and knee. Her camera was also damaged.

It is baffling to say there is insufficient evidence, as the attack was filmed and photographed by Tse's professional peers. The allegation, police say, is not backed by the situation as seen from the video clips. The prospect of a conviction is said to be further dampened by discrepancies between witness accounts and the footage. While prosecution does require sufficient evidence, the police have yet to give a convincing explanation in not pursuing the case further. After all, the slapping trial involving the couple was sparked by a video. If that is good enough to lay charges over what appears to be a private matter between lovers, given the serious nature of assault against a working journalist it does not seem unreasonable to expect at least a trial in court.

Like other journalists at the scene, our photographer was doing nothing more than legitimate reporting. The non-prosecution has sent a disturbing signal that assailants could get away with violence against journalists doing their job diligently. It would undermine our vibrant media culture if reporters have to think twice about their own safety when discharging their duties. The authorities should ensure that the legitimate rights of reporters are better protected.