10 black spots for photo-journalists

Vivian Tam - Editorial member, The Journanlist

[Mar 2012 - The Journalist] Luxury shop D&G banned people from taking photos of its shopfront. This caused an uproar and raised discussion about the right to take photos in public space.

Often reporters find themselves obstructed when covering news in are4as open to the public. Some private areas such as high-end private housing estates even require them to secure owners' permission to take pictures. Even when permission is granted photo-journalists still encounter difficulties from security guards.

According to one photojournalist in this era of smart phones, people can take pictures anywhere and everywhere “But the freedom to take photos for journalists is less than for ordinary folk.”

From a check with reporters here is a list of “10 Black Spots” where, even with owners'permission, news photo-taking is prohibited. We also asked the landlords for their comments and to explain their rationale.

1. Broadway Shop in Sai Yeung Choi Street South

Chung Sik Ming, a photo-journalist with a free newspaper said that he often has to take pictures of mainlanders shopping in Hong Kong. But sales person at Broadway would invariably approach him, ask him to stop shooting and block him if his camera continues to point at the shop.

Chung said sometimes even when the distance between him and the shop was more than 20 feet, the shopkeeper still stopped him and they also didn't allow him to take photos of mainland shoppers.

Chung said take photo of mainlanders' window shopping was stopped as well. He recalls at least two such incidents in the last three years. Many photo-journalists also share similar experiences.

2. Outside Prada Shop

Prada got listed in Hong Kong last June. On June, 12 Hong Kong Economic Times lensman Lam Yu Cheung was on the pavement of Canton Road taking pictures of tourists leaving the shop when a staff suddenly rushed out immediately and blocked his lens. That staff said: 'No photos according to our policy'.

Lam argued that he took photos in public area. That staff said a senior manager could explain the policy to him. Lam argued with them and said, “You can report to the police if you want.” Prada finally left him alone and he stayed for 15 minutes to get the pictures he wanted.

Prada did not respond to our queries.

3. The foot-bridge connecting Shun Tak Centre and Western Market

An anonymous TV reporter said he took video footage from the foot-bridge. He
said he was doing a story about foot-bridges in Hong Kong and had checked that bridge was a public foot-bridge. However when he walked from the main bus stop to the steps of the bridge and shot the display information about the history of
Central and Western district, a security guard stopped him and said part of the
bridge belonged to Shun Tak.

That incident happened twice - in 2004 and 2008.

A Shun Tak spokesman responded that that part of bridge is not their property and they had received no complaints. The spokesman added if reporters take photos on the property of Shun Tak, they needed to apply for permit first in order to avoid inconvenience.

4. Seafront near Cultural Centre
Former TV reporter Vivian Tam said she did a stand-up with Victoria Harbour as background outside Cultural Centre. The security guard of Cultural Centre stopped her and said she needed to apply for permit first.

However, dozens of tourists took pictures at the same time. Tam argued that she was shooting the harbour but not Cultural Centre, but the security guard still stopped her. That incident happened in 2008.

Leisure and Cultural Services Department said they had insufficient information to check the case, if media shot footage for spot news they did not have to get permission first. However, if the news report was not a breaking event, then media needed to apply for a permit first.

5. City University

Lam Chung Tung of Ming Pao said he needed to take photos of graduate students in gowns with flowers and big dolls for a news story. He went to the open area of City University by the tunnel connecting to Festival Walk but was stopped by a security guard.

City University said they were happy to help reporters if their staff and students agreed to be photographed, and safety and order on the campus were not threatened. If reporters need to shoot or cover news on the campus they needed to apply for permission.

6. Foot-bridge connecting IFC and Chater House

Radio reporter Emily Chan said that some years ago she interviewed people and took their photos in the food-bridge. A security guard stopped her and said, “No
interviews and photos here because this is not a public area.” The guard also told
her to leave and to apply for a permit first.

Landmark said that if safety was not affected and area was not blocked, anyone could take photos in the public areas of their property.

7. Lok Fu Wet Market
Radio reporter Emily Chan said that when she was working on story last year about housewives' shopping experiences in wet markets she went to Lok Fu wet market to look interview them. A security guard told her that she needed to seek permission first. Chan asked him where she could apply for permit, he said he didn't know.

The Link-Reit Management Ltd said they had no record of such a case. Link said no permit was required for reporters to gather news in their shopping malls generally. Some shopping centres and wet markets are busy, their staff will help maintain public order. If reporters carry big equipment, it is recommended that they can contact them first to make prior arrangements.

8. Outside private housing estate - to take photos of One Silver Sea from Island Harbourview

Chan Chi Kwan, a former reporter of Cable TV programme “Property Outlook” said that in 2009 June she was on the pedestrian path of Hoi Fan Road opposite Island Harbourview, shooting footage of One Silver Sea, then still under construction. She was ordered out by a security guard.

MTRC, the management company of Island Harbourview said they had no record of that incident, adding that security guards understood the boundaries of private housing property and public area and media could cover news freely in public area.

9. Outside the property - La Place de Victoria

Chan Chi Kwan once interviewed an agent at a flat in La Place de Victoria in North Point. They had registered at the management office before the interview. After the interview, the reporter tried to shoot the external part of the property at the front door of La Place de Victoria at King's Road, but was prohibited by the security guards.

The cameraman had to move to the pedestrian way of the opposite of King's Road to finish the job. It happened in the first week of June 2009.

But the management company of La Place de Victoria said no such thing happened according to their record. The current staff also claimed that they did not remember whether this had happened, but according to the guidelines they would not stop the public from taking photos of the property outside.

10. Authorisation from the owner of flat

Chan Chi Kwan said the “Property Outlook” programme would help buyers to check their newly purchased apartment. She lined up with an owner who bought a flat in Celestial Heights, developed by Cheung Kong and Nam Fung Group. She had to wait for half an hour before the security guard could confirm that the permission given to her was valid.

Celestial Heights said owing to security reason, the registration of visitors
are enforced seriously. If a reporter came in their staff had to confirm with
the owner and car park slot first, then press arrangements would be arranged
in accordance with general rules.