The BBC reports Hong Kong photojournalist Anthony Kwan Hok-chun was arrested for carrying body armor and a helmet as he was ready to board a flight back to Hong Kong.
Seems Kwan brought the equipment with him to cover the recent bombing of the Erawan Shrine a couple of weeks ago. And it seems having military type equipment is against the law.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand issued a statement calling for Kwan’s release. The FCCT made the following points to the Thai government:
- Hong Kongers were among the dead in the bombing
- Protective gear is standard issue for reporters covering violent events.
- The vest and helmet are not weapons
- Journalists openly worn body armor during recent political turmoil without any action being taken government
- Te deaths of two foreign journalists in Bangkok from gunfire during the political unrest in 2010 underscores the need for this kind of protection.
As the FCCT pointed out, it is not unusual for journalists to wear protective gear when reporting from dangerous areas. The Committee to Protect Journalists gives a rundown of the types of equipment to wear in different troubled areas:
- Choose a vest rated to stop high-velocity bullets fired by military rifles.
- Helmets are also recommended for journalists covering war zones.
- Wear body armor whenever you are embedded with military forces
The CPJ also offers tips about using protective gear in civil disturbance situations:
- Protective gear that is lightweight and relatively thin can provide protection against knife attacks, rubber bullets, and other hazards.
- Baseball-style caps with metal plates are also available.
- Armor may not be recommended for covering criminal matters because it may cause a journalist to be mistaken for a law enforcement agent.
- Gas masks may also be worn, although in doing so journalists incur the risk that they could be mistaken for either riot police or demonstrators.
Kwan’s employer, Initium Media, hired a lawyer to contest the charges.