The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) in strongly criticising the decision by the Hong Kong government to deny access to online media outlets to upcoming handover celebrations and the collection of journalist data.July 1, 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the transfer of Hong Kong from Britain to China. Many events have been planned, and it is widely expected that Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in attendance at official events in Hong Kong. Although no official statements or confirmations of President Xi’s travel have been made, the Information Service Department have demanded that all media outlets who wish to report on any events or ceremonies must register. In the registration form, journalists who will cover the events must provide extensive personal information including identification card number and passport number. In addition, all journalists registering have to consent to sharing their personal information with the Handover Coordination Office, which is supervised by the Home Affairs Bureau.According to one journalist who has registered: “We keep asking for the reason why journalists’ personal data have to be shared with the Coordination Office and law enforcement, but the officer at the Information Service Department just refused to answer. We strongly believe that the data collected will be shared with the Chinese Liaison Office, the central agency in Hong Kong, as usual.”In addition to the vetting of journalists covering the events, no online media has been granted access. According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the Information Service Department is still reviewing its current media policy, but said that it will remain in place until the review is complete. Under the current policy, online media does not have the same rights as traditional media to cover official events.HKJA sent a letter to the Information Service Department opposing the data collection and demanded the decision be revised.
The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “While we understand for strict security process for any public event, that does not mean that journalists’ personal information and data need to be collected. It is an overreach of the government. We call on the government to immediately overhaul its media policy to recognise the role of digital media in Hong Kong and grant them access to the upcoming and all official events.”The IFJ stands with HKJA in demanding the government immediately withdraw the registration process for the upcoming and any future official events and uphold the rights of online media outlets to ensure their access to information.
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