|Jakarta says HK journalists ‘didn’t talk normally’
APEC host Indonesia denied stifling press freedom after withdrawing the credentials of nine Hong Kong journalists for shouting questions at Philippine leader Benigno Aquino, insisting they had posed a security threat.
Despite protests from Hong Kong's main journalist group, Aquino's spokesman also said the journalists had “crossed the line'' by aggressively questioning about a hostage siege in a Manila tour bus during which eight Hong Kong people were murdered in 2010.
“We deemed it improper for media to act that way, as they didn't talk normally but they were very demonstrative, like they were protesting,'' said Gatot Dewa Broto, the Indonesian communications ministry official in charge of the media center in Bali for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
“So we did this due to security concerns,'' he told AFP, adding that the press badges of nine Hong Kong journalists had been deactivated.
Hong Kong media said the journalists and technicians were from Now TV, RTHK and Commercial Radio.
A journalist at Now TV said three of its reporters were briefly detained by Indonesian police following the incident.
“They were detained for four hours Monday afternoon. There were three of them, including one text reporter and two cameramen, being detained,'' Daphne Lo, senior reporter of Now TV, told AFP.
As Aquino entered a meeting of APEC business leaders on Sunday, the reporters demanded to know whether he would meet Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying in Bali and apologize to the families of the hostage crisis victims.
Now TV footage showed the journalists shouting “So you're ignoring the Hong Kong people, right?'' and “Have you met CY Leung'' as they tried to extend their microphones over Aquino's entourage.
APEC staff then intervened to admonish the journalists.
Sham Yee-lan, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Journalists' Association, said Manila had “yet to provide a satisfactory explanation'' for why the eight Hong Kong tourists had died in a botched police rescue. Sham said the journalists in Bali were doing their job.
“The barring of the media for asking critical questions is an outright infringement of press freedom that is totally unacceptable,'' she said in a statement.
Now TV said its journalists were “only engaged in normal reporting duties'' and urged intervention from the Hong Kong government, which is one of APEC's 21 members.
One reporter whose pass was invalidated said the action was unwarranted.
“We didn't do anything that violated the rules. Their behavior was just unreasonable,'' Tiffany Hon Chuen, a reporter for Now TV, told AFP.
But Aquino's spokesman Ricky Carandang said the reporters had crossed an ethical boundary.
“The behavior of these reporters crossed the line from mere questioning to heckling, and was even construed by Indonesian security personnel assigned to the president as a potential physical threat to him,'' he said.