The Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) yesterday accused the police of brutality and trying to block media from reporting on the forced demolition of houses in Taipei’s Huaguang Community (華光).
“Law enforcement personnel should respect and help to protect journalists’ right to report on events. They have to be very clear that journalists are not their targets,” ATJ chairwoman Chen Hsiao-yi (陳曉宜) said. “It is absolutely unacceptable that the police try to block journalists from doing their jobs, as they did today [yesterday].”
Chen was commenting on clashes between police and journalists as the police tried to escort a demolition squad into Huaguang Community to tear down two houses.
Wang Min-wei (王敏為), a photojournalist from the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper), was manhandled by several officers who tried to remove him from the scene. Wang resisted, while several other reporters came to his assistance.
“I took pictures of the officers who grabbed me. I will send the photographs to the ATJ and see what we can do to protest,” he said.
Wang was not the only media representative to run into problems.
“We will start demolishing the house, please leave the area,” Liao Kuo-hung (廖國宏), a clerk from the Taipei District Court, told a group of reporters. “I will give you three minutes to leave.”
A few minutes before, the reporters had been told only to stay away from the front entrance of the house to be demolished, and stay in a designated area for the media across the street from the house.
“You just told us that we could be here,” reporters said. “We are not leaving.”
Protesters began to chant: “Freedom of the press,” while some reporters joined in.
In the end, the reporters were allowed to stay after police checked press passes, but all other reporters were kept dozens of meters away from the scene.
“The police should have expected media to be here. They should have figured out a way to help protect journalists doing their job,” Chen said. “If the police don’t learn from this, there will be more conflicts between the police and the media in the future.”