It's Our Job to Ask Questions

Text by Tracy Wong
Translated by Teddy Ng

“I am just questioning. I am not screaming.”

“That’s okay… You are not going to offend his Excellency. Now, out!”

  Asking questions is the job of all journalists. But it is always controversial whether journalists should step back, compromise or silence themselves when they are expelled from press events or have their accreditations confiscated after asking questions, leading to deprivation of the right to cover events or interview officials.

  Many media organizations of Hong Kong sent reporters to cover the APEC summit in October in Bali, Indonesia. Journalists from three electronic media organizations, including NOW, RTHK and Commercial Radio, raised the question with Philippines President Benigno Aquino whether Manila would apologize to the victims of the hostage crisis. The journalists also asked if Aquino would meet with Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chunying.The journalists did not only fail to get a response from Aquino, but were mistreated by several APEC officials. The reporters were accused of shouting loudly at Aquino. Mr Wishnu Wardhana, chairman of the APEC Business Advisory Council, said the journalists had offended Aquino and ordered them to be taken out of the conference venue. Four journalists were expelled after their media passes were confiscated. The media passes of another journalist and engineering staff of NOW TV were also deactivated, even though they were not at the conference venue at the time the incident happened.

  The saga did not end there. The journalists concerned were placed under watch list of the APEC organizing committee and closely monitored. Some journalists were ordered to change to another hotel after their media accreditations were deactivated. Indonesian authorities said the Hong Kong journalists posed a security
threat to Aquino. A spokesman for Aquino also said the journalists had “crossed the line” and were posing a security risk to the Filipino president.

  Yip Yiu-kwan, the RTHK journalist who raised questions to Aquino, gave a written account of the incident. “It is unimaginable that the committee of such an international summit would resort to such uncivilized action,” he wrote.