Hong Kong reporter accuses police of violence against media

HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong reporter disrupted a police news conference on Monday to protest what she called escalating violence by officers against journalists covering the city's pro-democracy protests.

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The reporter interrupted the briefing by reading a statement alleging police mistreatment and obstruction of reporters covering the chaotic demonstrations.

To emphasize her point, she used a high-powered strobing flashlight similar to ones that police have used on photographers and video journalists.

The five officers sitting on the stage quickly left, leaving the reporter to deliver her remarks before staff intervened.

"They're stopping us from carrying out our duties to report what happened in the field," said the reporter. "They tear off our gas masks and even deploy pepper spray on us every time," she said, adding that press freedom in Hong Kong was under threat.

She did not give her name but other reporters on social media identified her as Amy Ip, a freelance journalist. Sophie McNeill of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. tweeted that Ip helped produce a recent report on Hong Kong for the network.

Tensions are rising further between police and media after violent demonstrations on Sunday night in which police used aggressive tactics against media and detained a photojournalist overnight.

The Hong Kong Free Press website said May James, one of its freelance contributors, was arrested by police who asked her to remove her safety mask as they enforced a recent law banning people from wearing face coverings at public assemblies.

James was held despite authorities' assurances that journalists are exempt from the ban. Reporters covering Hong Kong protests usually use respirator masks to protect against the frequent use of police tear gas.

Police said at the briefing, which eventually resumed, that James didn't comply immediately when asked for press credentials.

Hong Kong's protest movement erupted in early June, sparked by a China extradition bill that stoked longstanding fears that the country's Communist rulers are tightening their grip on the semi-autonomous city. The movement has mushroomed into an uprising with broader demands for political reform and police accountability.

Police said they arrested 206 people over the past week for offenses including unlawful assembly, criminal damage and arson.