New York, August 10, 2017–Authorities in Hong Kong should immediately drop all charges against reporter Mak Ying-sheung, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Mak testified at Hong Kong’s High Court on contempt of court charges yesterday, according to news reports. The charges stem from allegations that she violated an order requiring protesters to leave a protest in 2014, the reports said. At the time, Mak was an intern at the news website In-media, but did not have a press pass when she was arrested, In-media reported. Her application for press credentials was being processed.
Mak told the court that she was at the November 26, 2014, protest on assignment to report and take photos, and that she did not intend to hinder clearance of the area or to obstruct arrests, which is the substance of the contempt charge. At the protest, an officer said she did not have a press pass, while another pulled at her bag, she told the Hong Kong Free Press. She said she was preparing to leave the area but paused to help an activist who tripped in front of her, and that’s when she was arrested.
Over the course of September-December 2014, Hong Kong saw a series of large protests against proposed changes to its electoral system, in what became known as “the Umbrella Revolution.”
“Prosecutors in Hong Kong should drop the charges against Mak Ying-Sheung, who was arrested simply doing her job as a journalist covering a protest of local and global interest,” CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler said. “This legal harassment is the latest evidence of erosion of media freedom in Hong Kong.”
The High Court yesterday asked if In-media‘s name referred to “independent Hong Kong media”–which would imply an editorial stance favoring Hong Kong’s independence from mainland China–or “Hong Kong independent media.” Mak explained that “independent” referred to the news organization and not Hong Kong, according to reports.
Prosecutors played video at the High Court hearing yesterday that they said showed Mak chanting slogans at the protest. Mak denied the video was of her, according to Hong Kong Free Press. At the court hearing, an In-media editor confirmed that Mak was on assignment when she was arrested and that police had not sought confirmation from the news organization that Mak was a reporter, Hong Kong Free Press reported.