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A fallen sign is seen as Tropical storm Pakhar hits Macau, China on August 27. 2017. Macau authorities refused entry into the area to four journalists from Hong Kong who were supposed to report on rescue and repair efforts after the storm. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

Hong Kong journalists denied entry to Macau

August 28, 2017 5:45 PM ET

Taipei, August 28, 2017--Local authorities in Macau should allow all journalists, including those based in Hong Kong, to enter and report freely from the territory, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Macau's Public Security Police Force on August 26 denied entry to four journalists from Hong Kong, who were planning to report on the area's recovery and rescue operations in the wake of Typhoon Hato, according to media reports. One journalist was from English-language daily the South China Morning Post, one from the Chinese-language online publication HK01, and two were from the Chinese-language Apple Daily.

Macau immigration authorities briefly detained the reporters at the Outer Harbor border checkpoint with Hong Kong, and then asked the four to sign a notice stating they "posed a risk to the stability of internal security," HK01 reported.

"Denying journalists access to Macau over vague security allegations is unacceptable," said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler from Washington D.C. "Extreme weather affects both Hong Kong and Macau, and journalists' work is vital to keeping citizens safe and holding authorities accountable for their response."

The Macau Serviços de Polícia Unitários commissioner Ma Io Kun told reporters at a press conference the same day that the denial of entry had nothing to do with the four journalists' profession, and that the government of Macau fully respects press freedom, according to media reports. When reporters at the press conference asked, Ma refused to explain how the journalists posed a threat to Macau's security.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (HKPPA) released a joint statement expressing regrets over the obstruction. The Macau Portuguese and English Press Association, in a statement on Facebook, said local authorities' explanation was "incomprehensible and unsatisfactory."

Felix Wong, the South China Morning Post photographer who was one of the four journalists denied entry to Macau, has previously been barred from entering Macau, according to Teledifusão de Macau, a local public broadcasting service.

Hong Kong residents are supposed to have free entry into Macau, an autonomous region under Beijing's control. However, the Hong Kong Journalists Association and other groups have documented past cases in which journalists have been denied entry for alleged security reasons.

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