A Hong Kong Police Force media liaison officer speaks at a protest site. Photo: Courtesy of Hong Kong Police Force
As if Hong Kong police officers are not busy enough dealing with months of unrest, a group of self-proclaimed reporters, who police say have “ulterior motives,” have become a serious problem: they verbally attacked police officers, and some even tried to obstruct police work apparently to protect illegal protesters, Police Public Relations Branch officers told reporters at the Hong Kong police headquarters.
Not all those who wear yellow reflective press vests are reporters. Some pretend to be reporters and engage in other activities, said Ko Chun-pong, superintendent of police for media relations.
When asked which publications the suspicious ones were from, some claimed to be with newspapers that the police have never heard of, according to Ko, saying some social activists, local lawmakers and members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council were found to mingle with the reporters. “We saw them engaging in protest activities that are clearly not the job of reporters,” he said.
Ko said some of the police officers wearing blue vests tasked to assist reporters on the scene have also been attacked by people who pretended to be reporters.
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“These days, everyone can say they are reporters but a real journalist should be professional.”
Though not as often as riot police, officers tasked to assist reporters are also subject to verbal abuse by rioters and cyber abuse, after their information was disclosed online.
Police do not know the exact number of fake reporters, as there is no way to find out, Ko said.
The fake reporters could be local and foreign, according to a police inspector surnamed Hwei. She said those identified as fake reporters would be asked to leave.
There is no statutory agency in Hong Kong mandated to issue press cards, Ko said, adding that not having a press card issued by the Hong Kong Journalists Association doesn‘t mean he or she is not a reporter, as it could be the case that someone opts not to join the association while working for a local publication.
“This is a big headache for us,” Ko said.
Global Times reporters saw reporters standing between the police and the rioters even after they were told to step aside when the police moved to disperse illegal protesters. Some even tried to stop police officers from arresting rioters, and verbally attacked police officers after being pushed back.