Don't shoot the messenger

June 13, 2019 12:48
Battleground Admiralty: Protesters advance amid fumes from tear gas fired by riot police on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

Salute to the media workers of Hong Kong!

Among the 70-odd individuals who were injured and sent to hospitals as a result of the breakout of violence in Wednesday's protests in Admiralty were reporters, photographers and other members of media outlets who covered the event.

These are the workers who risk life and limb to bring the news to our radio sets, TV, mobile phones and newspapers.

These are the men and women who dodge rubber bullets and ignore the pain of police batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to get into the thick of the action and cover it live for us who witness it in the comfort of our homes and offices.

In the chaos of conflict, the difference between civilians and "combatants" is blurred, and so they too suffer the consequences of being there. 

Our hearts go out to the RTHK driver who was unfortunately hit by a tear gas round, causing his heart to stop beating for a while, but, thank God, he is now in a stable condition in a hospital.

The driver surnamed Chong has been with the public broadcaster for about five years, working as a freelancer. He had apparently inhaled a lot of the fumes and subsequently suffered spasms, a companion said.

Chong said he would never have imagined what he had experienced happening to him in real life.

RTHK's staff union assailed the excessive use of force by the police, noting that the driver was wearing a high-visibility vest identifying him as a member of a media outlet.

Another broadcasting station, Commercial Radio, uploaded a video showing police pushing one of its reporters several times, even after he had identified himself as a journalist.

One police officer shouted at him, “F--- your mother, journalist!”

Indeed, the harm – physical and verbal – suffered by our journalists is there for the whole world to see.

Amid the tense atmosphere, some journalists could not help but react with hostile words – for they could hardly do anything else – as law enforcers disregarded their legitimate right to be there and cover the event.

One French newsman shouted back at the attacking officers: "Stop shooting journalists, motherf-----!" He also reminded them that "this is Hong Kong, not China!" "You don't play by the rule, you should be arrested!" The officers finally relented and let them be.

Truth to tell, not many local reporters have had experiences in working in a riot situation, as we have seen on Wednesday.

But they know they have a job to do and do it they must, regardless of the dangers that go with it.

An edgy calm has returned to Admiralty after Wednesday's chaos, but anger remains in the hearts of many as the government pushes through with a much-reviled legislative proposal that they feel would further diminish our freedoms and erode the values that Hong Kong stands for.

Whatever happens next, bet your bottom dollar the hard-working journalists will be there to report the news for you.

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EJ Insight writer