Hong Kong, Sep 24 (efe-epa).- China has urged foreign reporters in Hong Kong to stop interfering in the city’s internal affairs “on the pretext of press freedom” after the Foreign Correspondents Club opposed a police move that limits access to press briefings to only government-recognized media.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Office in Hong Kong expressed “strong disapproval” of the remarks by the FCC about the police’s amendment of the definition of media representatives.
“We urge FCC Hong Kong to observe national and local laws and regulations, stop provoking trouble on purpose, and refrain from meddling with Hong Kong affairs under any pretext,” said the statement by the ministry’s representative in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
“No organization or individual shall seek privileges above the law, impede the HKSAR government’s law-based governance, or endanger China’s national security and Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability on the pretext of press freedom.”
The representative defended the controversial change in the media policy of the local government.
It said the administration was well within its rights to “amend the policy to address prevalent maladies and set things right, so as to better safeguard the legitimate rights of recognized media outlets and journalists and protect press freedom in Hong Kong.”
The Hong Kong police published the amended guidelines on Tuesday to recognize journalists from “internationally recognized and renowned” foreign media outlets only or from news organizations registered with the government information system.
Under the new rules that came into force from Wednesday, police will no longer recognize accreditation by local media groups or journalist associations.
Press associations argue that the new policy affects freelancers and student reporters as news outlets have come to rely on freelancers and obtaining registration for most of them has become practically impossible because of their freelance status.
They say the measure could limit the work of independent journalists or journalism students who took pictures or reported on the pro-democracy protests that swept through the city last year.
The government information department is authorized to review media accreditation if their representatives carry out activities other than reporting the facts.
For example, using foul language or “disrupting public order” both at events and demonstrations will be considered “misconduct.” The press credentials of those who commit these offenses could be reviewed.
The FCC on Wednesday blasted the new media policy, describing it as “another step in the erosion of Hong Kong’s once cherished press freedom as it would give the police — rather than reporters and editors — the power to determine who covers the police.”
The press club said the changes were not referred to as an accreditation system “but rather a redefinition of who is a journalist in the police general orders with the aim of ‘allowing frontline officers to efficiently and swiftly verify the identity of media representatives.’”
It recalled that Hong Kong had already dropped to an “ignominious” 80th place on the Reporters Without Borders annual press freedom index of 180 countries, down from 48th place in 2009. EFE-EPA