Following is a question by the Hon Tony Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (May 4):
In recent years, during large-scale public events such as processions, demonstrations, assemblies, etc., there have often been a large number of media personnel covering news at the scene. Apart from handling chaos and confrontations arising from the radical behaviour of individual participants of the events, the Police have to take care of the safety of the people, including the media personnel, present at the scene. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
whether the Police have formulated a procedure, guidelines or measures (collectively referred to as “the mechanism”) to identify and verify the identities of the media personnel covering news during large-scale public events; if they have not, of the reasons for that, and whether the Police will formulate such a mechanism; if they have, the specific contents of the mechanism, and whether the Police will review the mechanism and consult the police staff associations concerned during the review; if the Police will not review the mechanism, of the reasons for that;
whether it has conducted any study on the difficulties encountered, in the past large-scale public events, by the Police in identifying and verifying whether the persons at the scene were media personnel; if it has, of the study outcome and the relevant solutions;
as a large number of online media have emerged in recent years, coupled with the fact that smartphones are equipped with advanced video-recording functions due to the rapid development of information technology, resulting in anyone holding a smartphone in hand being able to cover news, how the Police currently identify and verify whether the persons at the scene are media personnel during large-scale public events; whether the Police have formulated a procedure to complement media personnel’s news coverage; if they have, of the details of the procedure; if not, the reasons for that, and whether they will formulate such a procedure;
whether the Information Services Department (ISD) has a role in assisting media personnel in covering news during large-scale public events; if ISD does, of the details, and whether the authorities will strengthen the role of ISD; if ISD does not, the reasons for that, and whether the authorities will specify the role to be assumed by ISD; and
whether it will consider (i) establishing a registration system for media organisations, (ii) issuing press cards to those media personnel employed by registered media organisations, and (iii) stipulating that only those media personnel who can produce press cards are allowed to cover news during large-scale public events, so as to make it easier for law enforcement officers to identify whether the persons at the scene are media personnel and complement the news coverage by media personnel?
The Government’s consolidated reply to the Hon Tse’s question is as follows:
The Police all along respect press freedom and the media’s right of reporting. The Police also fully recognise the importance of facilitating media reporting and maintaining effective communications and co-operation with the media. Therefore, the Police have been taking measures to facilitate media reporting as far as practicable.
In handling public order events, the Police will conduct holistic risk assessment based on the objectives, nature, number of participants, past experience and the latest situation etc. of individual events for manpower deployment and formulation of operational plans and contingencies. The Police will also deploy manpower flexibly and implement crowd management measures in light of the prevailing circumstances to ensure public safety and public order.
The Police have formulated relevant guidelines for officers to identify and verify the identity of media practitioners during public order events or other police operations with the proof of identity or documents issued by media organisations or associations. While covering public order events, media practitioners should bring along the proof of identity of reporters or testimonials issued by their companies and can wear easily recognisable clothing and armbands so that police officers at scene can easily recognise them. The Police will examine relevant guidelines from time to time and will consider the opinion of frontline police officers in the process.
On the condition of not affecting operations, the Police have all along been assisting in media reporting as far as possible. Generally speaking, unless designating a press area will provide a vantage point for the media to cover the events, in principle the Police will not designate a press area in public place, where the media like other members of the public are allowed free access. If a designated press area is set up under the above-mentioned circumstances, the media are still free to move in and out of that press area. If a police cordon is set up for operational or investigative purpose at a scene of crime, traffic accident or emergency incident etc, the Police will consider setting up a designated press area where practicable to facilitate media reporting. The Police appeal to media practitioners to put their own personal safety first and comply with the instructions of police officers at scene while covering public order events or other incidents.
To further enhance the communications and co-operation with the media, the Police have officially established the Force Media Liaison Cadre in December 2015. When necessary, the Police will deploy Cadre members to the scene of public order events or other police operations to provide facilitation and assistance to media practitioners covering the events at scene. Information officers of the Information Services Department staffed in the Police Public Relations Branch (PPRB) of the Hong Kong Police Force will also provide support and assist in handling media enquiries. If necessary, media practitioners conducting reporting at scene can seek assistance from the Force Media Liaison Cadre or liaise with the PPRB Newsroom which operates 24 hours round-the-clock.
On the basis of mutual respect and understanding, the Police will continue to maintain close communications and co-operation with the media and provide necessary assistance.
Ends/Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:27