The chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKKA), Chris Yeung, says police are exaggerating the problem of “fake reporters” to try to justify their mistreatment of media workers during protests.

At a briefing on Thursday, chief superintendent John Tse from the force’s public relations branch had cited cases where people posing as reporters have refused to show their press passes, or wouldn’t tell officers which organisation they were supposedly from.

Others claimed to be from media outlets that officers had never heard of, Tse added.

But Yeung said his association has only found one suspected case of somebody pretending to be a reporter.

“To us, the claim of fake reporters is kind of a red herring by police officers to justify their use of force and breach their own rules, say by spraying pepper spray on reporters or throwing tear gas onto journalists,” he said.

On Thursday, the HKJA and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association accused police of attacking frontline reporters and cameraman at protests, and said the violence is threatening the SAR’s press freedom.