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Thursday, October 16, 2014, 09:12

Protesters intimidate journalists on duty

By Timothy Chui in Hong Kong

“Occupy Central” protesters are resorting to illegal acts of intimidation to prevent journalists they suspect don’t support them from carrying out their duties.

A number of incidents have occurred as the ongoing unrest enters its 18th day. Occupiers’ claims to be upholding press freedom now look increasingly spurious.

Yeung Chee-kong, Professor of Practice at the School of Journalism and Communication, Chinese University of Hong Kong, said incidents of reporters being intimidated, because of a perception that their reports were unsympathetic to the occupation cause, were blatant cases of double standards.

“The attacks on journalists and interference with their work are deplorable and should be condemned by all,’’ Yeung said.

“How can people who take to the streets and occupy public space in the name of democracy and freedom take such uncivilized actions that so fundamentally go against what they are supposedly fighting for?” he added.

The latest incident took place during the short-lived Lung Wo Road underpass occupation on Tuesday evening. A young protester became furious with a China News Service (CNS) reporter after she photographed the scene.

The atmosphere was charged as occupation protesters, riding high after forcing roughly a dozen police to retreat from the underpass, began blocking the road with drainage covers.

The momentary police retreat left remaining officers out of shouting distance. This meant the CNS reporter was without assistance among the angry rabble.

Protesters quickly surrounded the lone reporter, demanding that she delete the images, ignoring the fact that the photos were taken legally in a public area.

Appeals to respect her rights as a reporter fell on deaf ears as the angry throng closed in, detaining her until they achieved what they wanted. 

The CNS reporter, holding her head down, berated protesters as she attempted to explain her rights in Cantonese while calling in Putonghua for her cameraman to come to her assistance. She eventually relented under a tirade of vitriol. The woman was allowed to leave after deleting the photos as protesters cheered.

Journalists from multiple outlets have said protesters were now declining to allow photos or supplying their full names, fearing the records of their protests could be used in future prosecutions.

Tuesday’s incident comes after other reporters working for mainland-related publications were harangued by sit-in supporters. Local media has not been immune, with a TVB news crew forced to suspend a report after protesters shouted down the anchor, accusing the station of reporting their cause too conservatively.

Statements from the Foreign Correspondents Club and the Hong Kong Journalists Association regarding “Occupy” protesters’ interference with mainland reporters were not ready as at the time of going to press.


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