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Media proves its worth during mass protest

Apple Daily, an independent pro-democracy local newspaper under Next Media, has received what it calls an “unprecedented” attack by anti-Occupy protesters against both its physical and digital platforms – blocking the newspaper’s daily delivery since Tuesday outside its headquarters, and taking its website down for hours.

The website is now back in operation, but it’s been confirmed Apple Daily staff have been receiving nuisance calls during the protest.

From Monday night to Tuesday morning, an angry masked crowd, formed by about 100 anti-Occupy protesters – mostly Mainlanders, who have been surrounding Apple Daily’s headquarters at Tseung Kwan O for days trying to voice their anger at the paper’s massive coverage on Occupy Central – escalated their action to hinder the morning delivery by blocking the delivery truck from passing through the main gates.

The publication responded with a statement on the same day reaffirming its stance and condemning the attack as an act of “jeopardising press freedom”.

“Since established, pressure on Apple Daily never stops … we promise to uphold our duties and never surrender,” the publication affirms in the statement.

Only four months ago both Apple Daily operations in Hong Kong and Taiwan received a large-scale attack by what the media suspected as hackers from the Mainland, taking their websites down for hours.

The harassment to its operations continues unabated. On Tuesday night around 11.30pm, several tour buses showed up at the publication’s front gate for a short period, but left after a broadcast reminded the anti-occupy protesters of a court injunction the media had received on Tuesday that nobody could gather around the gate.

Throughout the demonstration, the central government has been silent on the rally apart from showing support to controlling the protesters’ actions.

Meanwhile, English publication South China Morning Post has been blocked in China after the paper dropped the paywall for its massive Occupy Central coverage; this was following the ban on Instagram in China where censorship on social media has reached an all-time high.

Indeed, the role and responsibility of journalism has never been greater at a time when major protests have been sweeping the city.

It is their time to promote and to protect human rights during massive demonstrations and social movements by witnessing and reporting the scenario to the world.

No matter if it’s the confrontation between the powerful and the vulnerable, or the pro-democracy appeal that has earned the protest global attention, to some extent, it does help reduce violence against protesters before it goes further (the use of tear gas and pepper spray on the first day of the protest), when every action from both sides have the world watching.

“The international media is ensuring the safety of protesters as nobody can do anything drastic without being noticed and reported,” said a video journalist from Associated Press, who declined to give her name.

“Most of the western world believes in democracy, and more importantly, nobody wants to see civilians getting hurt. International media is important in this sense to make sure everybody in the world knows what’s going on, and thus, to ensure the civilians’ safety.

“If something happens we wouldn’t be able to help on the ground, but our coverage will put pressure (on the powerful side) to ensure the situation doesn’t get out of hand, and there will be interventions if it does.”

She added although the development of democracy was of public concern, the world was “obviously more interested in seeing how China is going to react in such situation”.

Said another anonymous media worker from Apple Daily Taiwan, who stayed at one of the protest sites for more than a week: “I think the world should know about this, and I’m honoured to be one of the reporters to cover this memorable story.”

“Taiwan dovetails with Hong Kong’s belief in pursuing the dream of democracy. It’s easy to get our support (Taiwanese).”

Asked if taking a side in the conflict was a sign of unprofessional behaviour of journalists, he said taking a certain stance was inevitable in journalism, but that Apple Daily Taiwan was making the effort to stay neutral.

Photo courtesy to Next Media Trade Union

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