The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) in welcoming the Hong Kong Ombudsman’s decision in favour of HKJA’s complaint against the government’s outdated media policy.
On December 7, the Hong Kong Ombudsman ruled that the government’s policy towards digital-only media is inadequate and vague. The policy denies digital-only media access to government press events and its information dissemination system. The government pledged in January 2014 to update its press policy in line with changes in the media environment, but no reforms have been made.
The judgement said: “The new media in Hong Kong and other parts of the world have shown rapid development. These new media are on a par with traditional media in terms of functionality, and some have even outpaced the latter. [The] Information Services Department (ISD) should think outside of the box.”
HKJA made the complaint in June 2016 and also demanded that an accreditation system for online-only media be introduced as soon as possible following consultation with the industry.
The Ombudsman called upon the government to review its practices and to draw up related guidelines immediately. It recommended that the government review its practice of denying all online media not affiliated with “mass media organisations” access for on-the-spot reporting; relax the eligibility criteria for online media organisations to register as users of the Government News and Media Information System (GNMIS); and increase flexibility in dealing with requests from individual media organisations.
It rejected the government's argument that allowing online-only media organisations to have access would result in overcrowding and pose a security risk, saying there was insufficient evidence to substantiate this claim. “The blanket restriction was clearly more than necessary. [The government] should not, just because of a few isolated incidents, turn down all requests from digital only media across the board.”
The IFJ said: “The IFJ welcomes the Ombudsman’s ruling and sees it as a triumph for press freedom in Hong Kong. Digital new media has significantly transformed the global media landscape and governments must accommodate such change by updating and adapting their policies to provide all journalists with a free and fair working environment.”
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