Human rights in China

Right of journalists to gather news in China must be protected

Assaults on two Hong Kong media professionals in a matter of days show how vulnerable they are when carrying out their duties across the border

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 6:04am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 6:04am

Violence against working journalists can never be justified. The two recent assaults on Hong Kong media professionals on the mainland have not just caused them physical injuries, but also undermined media freedom and the public’s right to know.

The unanimous condemnation from the local news industry has made it clear that such incidents are absolutely unacceptable.

Journalist beaten while reporting on Sichuan quake

The attack yesterday was the second in five days. News footage showed a Now TV video journalist being pushed to the ground, handcuffed and dragged away by a group of plain-clothed and uniformed police while on assignment in Beijing.

He was covering a Beijing Lawyers Association hearing involving a human rights lawyer, one of the more than 300 such professionals and activists arrested by mainland authorities three years ago in the so-called “709 crackdown”. The journalist was later sent to hospital for examination and released.

On Saturday, an i-Cable News reporter was kicked and beaten by two men while covering the 10th anniversary of the earthquake in Sichuan. Arrangements were later made for the two men, identified as public officials of a low rank, to apologise to the reporter in front of TV cameras.

Hong Kong journalist detained whle reporting on human rights lawyer’s trial

But the way the incident was handled still leaves much to be desired.

The Hong Kong government, to its credit, has spoken out with the right sense of urgency. In response to the Sichuan incident, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau swiftly contacted the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office for follow-up action.

Soon after yesterday’s incident, the office, and the government’s representative in Beijing, also stepped in. But the freedom of the city’s media has been dealt a blow.

Even though the mainland has its own rules on news gathering, the use of violence against reporters carrying out legitimate news gathering is unacceptable.

The attacks show how vulnerable Hong Kong journalists are when carrying out their duties across the border. The Hong Kong government pledged to follow up and try to prevent the repeat of similar incidents.

We hope the issues will be expeditiously taken up by the mainland authorities. The right of Hong Kong journalists to legitimately gather news on the mainland must be protected.