Such courtesy from the police...in Taiwan

Emily Chan - Executive Committee Member, HKJA

[Mar 2012 - The Journalist] Whether on the mainland, in Hong Kong or Taiwan, when ‘supreme leaders’ decide to visit a neighbourhood reporters must try their best to get close to these VIPs and getting thrown out by the police is probably the inevitable outcome for reporters.

However, in Taiwan when I was yanked back by a policeman who was escortingTaiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou, I didn’t get angry.

In fact I warmed towards the officer of the law. That was how I felt covering Ma Ying-jeou's election campaign.

This feeling was not kindled by a single incident.

It all began with Ma’s visiting and praying at a temple. In fact that day Ma went to three small temples located on the same small street. Put together, all three temples covered an area much less than the Wong Tai Sin Temple in Hong Kong.

You can imagine the crush when all the reporters converge on the site, jostling for the best spot.

But in Taiwan you don’t need to get to the venue too early. Everything has been arranged in advance.

The police first plan the route for Ma. They then inform reporters which way he would proceed.

Then they get all the reporters together once to go over the route, modifying it in accordance with the views of the individual journalists, making every effort to cater to the needs of individual reporters.

This time too many reporters turned up on the actual day. It was impossible to squeeze all reporters into the temple. A late-comer cameraman could not get in and the only option was for him to squeeze into the space in front of altar.

But a police officer was more concerned that the cameraman might step back and burn his clothes, so he used his hand to protect the cameraman’s back.

I have reported news in Greater China for years. I never saw any police officer as considerate as this one.

I also had similar a experience. During his campaign Ma had at least 15 to 16 activities every day. He attracted crowds of reporters and hundreds to thousand of people, many wanting to shake hands with him, just like fans running after pop stars.

Our job was to follow and report on Ma. We tried our best to get as close to him as possible. One Ma was went to a wet. He was shaking hands with hawkers and shop owners, when I felt my backpack was being yanked back by a police officer for about 20 seconds. He drove me mad and I was going to upbraid him, when he said: ‘In front of you is a hot food stall, they are stewing meat. Be careful as it is dangerous.’

I stopped immediately. The policeman continued moving with Ma, I walked to another side to continue my job.

I could ask questions and Ma’s safety was also protected.

As a civilian as well, I understand the importance of a leader’s security. For the Taiwan police, Ma Ying-jeou’s safety is more important than anyone's else, but they are willing to communicate and co-ordinate with the media and try to walk in the reporter’s shoes.

These little incidents show that covering news and securing the big guys’ security is not mutually exclusive. If the police respect reporters and communicate with them in order to secure consensus, a win-win situation is always assured.

Taiwan police have always provided a successful example. Their attitude and skill should be learned. Expelling reporters is not a solution, accommodating reporters is also not a mission impossible.


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