online media workers vow to work despite ban

Local | Michael Shum 28 Sep 2020

Michael Shum

Banning online media from field reporting will hinder press freedom, but reporters working for online outlets will continue with their work "regardless of circumstances," a group of online media reporters said yesterday.

This came after Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said press freedom will not be undermined by the police's amendment.

The Alliance of Hong Kong Online Media Practitioners, which represents over 60 online media organizations, called Cheung's remark a joke, saying the amendment is filtering out freelance reporters, as well as those from small media organizations.

Alliance spokesman Bruce Lam Hong-ching said the police move constitutes an unequal distribution of reporting rights, which creates an unfair playing field for online media organizations.

"A lot of precious and crucial footage was filmed by online media. The police also used photos taken by online media, but now they do not recognize us as reporters anymore," Lam said.

"The road ahead might be getting more and more difficult, but we will keep on reporting in the future. This is our mission and responsibility as media workers."

The alliance also said they are considering challenging the amendment through judicial review.

"Online media practitioners will keep reporting, uncovering the truth and safeguarding professionalism. We object to the screening of news outlets by the authorities. The government and the police should understand and communicate more with the media industry," it said.

The alliance's remarks came hours after Cheung said the change would help frontline officers distinguish "genuine" reporters.

He added that journalists doing their job in accordance with the law would not be impeded.

Cheung also said press freedom in the SAR was protected by the Basic Law, adding that more than 200 media organizations, including more than 30 online outlets, were registered with the government news and media information service.

The police amended its general orders on Wednesday. Under the new orders, officers will only recognize reporters from media organizations registered with the government news service or "well known" international media organizations.

Recognized journalists can enter cordoned areas to carry out reporting work and attend police briefings, but others gathering outside cordoned areas might be fined or even prosecuted, according to sources.

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