Hong Kong, June 5 (EFE).- A former Hong Kong journalist won an appeal Monday against her conviction for lying to access official records for an award-winning documentary about 2019 pro-democracy protests.
The top court overturned the conviction of filmmaker Bao Choy, one of the producers of an RTHK documentary titled “7.21 Who Owns the Truth,” which aired in July 2020 to mark the first anniversary of a vicious mob attack in the suburb of Yuen Long.
The court ruled that journalistic activity was a valid reason for Choy to access vehicle records and find out who was involved in the violent assault on protesters.
“Whilst such rights are not absolute and may be restricted where necessary, there is no reason to proceed from a starting point that bona fide journalism should be excluded from the phrase ‘other traffic and transport related matters’,” the court said.
“The fact that the appellant was exercising her freedom of speech and of the press in connection with investigating the events of 21 July 2019 should be taken into consideration.”
Choy was fined HK$6,000 ($764) in 2021 after a court found her guilty of making false statements to obtain vehicle ownership records in her investigation of who was behind the violence.
The mob attack, which involved a group of white-clad men assaulting pro-democracy protesters and passengers at a metro station with iron rods and rattan sticks and injuring dozens, was a turning point in the protest movement.
It significantly heightened police-protester tensions.
The documentary, which won the prestigious annual Kam Yiu-yu Press Freedom Award, tracks down the perpetrators behind the attack.
Choy searched through the vehicle database in 2020 for information on a car owner believed to be involved in the attack.
The violence was broadcast live on social networks, showing how the police took 39 minutes to reach the scene.
Citizens can obtain vehicle license information via the database for transport-related reasons only, as per the Hong Kong transport law.
In the past, however, journalists have accessed government databases for investigative reporting without being prosecuted.
Since China imposed a national security law in 2020, Hong Kong’s media outlets have come under heavy government scrutiny, with Apple Daily and Stand News forced to shut down.
Last year, the city slipped to 148th in the global press freedom index of Reporters Without Borders. EFE