Distinguishing genuine journalists from counterfeit ones to safeguard freedom of the press
Hong Kong police announced yesterday that the definition of “Media Representatives” in the Police General Orders would be revised. According to the new revision, press accreditation of a journalist issued by a local media group or journalist association will no longer be recognised unless it is registered with the Government News and Media Information System （GNMIS） of the Information Services Department’s （ISD）. This decision in fact plugs the loophole in the issuance of press accreditation to fake reporters by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), and is of help to tell apart genuine journalists from fake ones. This timely and necessary move taken by the police rights a wrong to safeguard the freedom of the press. Such a move is praiseworthy.
The rioting by black-clad mobsters, lasting for over half a year intermittently, has thoroughly exposed the deep-rooted problems in Hong Kong society, one of which being that counterfeit journalists run wild. In Hong Kong, it is extremely easy for one to become a reporter. Any person - no matter whether he or she is a student, a priest, a babyish teenager or a practitioner in an on-line media outlet of unknown origin – can claim him/herself to be a “reporter” and swagger to “cover news” at a scene of rioting, so long as he or she has purchased a press card from a certain organisation with dozens of dollar and put on a yellow vest bought from a store. The news media is known as “the fourth estate (power)”, and journalism itself is a respectable profession and journalists must receive professional training. The fact that a big bunch of people without any professional background now can easily become “journalists”, however, is an insult to genuine journalists and a trample on the profession of journalism.
It is one thing that so many people could easily pass themselves off as reporters, but the most disgusting thing is that they play a shameful role in the riots by black-clad mobsters. Those fake reporters would place themselves between police officers and rioters, their job not to cover news but to obstruct police officers in the execution of duty and gain time for the rioters to escape, and also to tip off information about the arrested suspects. Some of them, clad in black, would assault, smash, loot and set fire, and in an instant change to become “reporters” again by putting on a yellow vest, thus shifting from one role to another alternatively. To put it bluntly, counterfeit reporters act in collusion with the rioters, while press cards and yellow vests are nothing but their “stage props” and protective talismans.
There is a photo that makes a deep impression on viewers. In the photo, a police officer holds his gun pointing at rioters, but he himself is besieged by a large group of “reporters” armed with “long and short guns (cameras with long-focus or wide-angle lenses)”. This picture truthfully depicts the predicament faced by the police force in the execution of duty: they have to deal with not only the atrocious mobsters but also such a group of fake reporters at the same time. As a matter of fact, the cameras of this group of fake reporters are trained always on every act and every move of police officers but never on any of the thugs. As such, how could there be any objectivity and balance in their reports? Manipulated by this group of people, police officers enforcing the law appear to be “breaking the law”, while law-breaking thugs become “heroes”. A large number of rumours - such as “some citizens were beaten to death by police officers in the MTR Prince Edward Station on August 31”, “the body of a killed girl student with the Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI) was dumped into the sea”, and “there were rapes in San Uk Ling Holding Centre”,etc.–were vividly fabricated, edited and spread by this group of fake reporters to make a baneful influence, which has seriously damaged the image of the police force.
Freedom of the press is one of Hong Kong’s core values. But abusing the press freedom is not far away from committing a crime. The HKJA and fake journalists are two poisonous fruits growing on the same vine. By now the problem can no longer be ignored and remain unsolved. The police resolutely take action this time to rectify the name of “journalists”, which also indirectly chops a black hand off the HKJA which abuses its power to indulge fake reporters. The fact once again proves: “there are always more ways out than difficulties as long as one maintains a positive mentality.” So long as government officials dare to do something to make a difference, it is certain that all the sludge and filth in society will be washed away and peace will come back to Hong Kong.
23 September 2020