Kemal Bokhary

Judge warns against self-censorship

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2012, 12:00am


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A liberal voice of the top court sounded a warning yesterday on self-censorship among local media in a speech to hundreds of journalists.

And once again, the retiring permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal, Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary, exhibited his stern opposition to seeking Basic Law interpretations from Beijing.

'Free speech is the lifeblood of the media,' he said at the Journalist Association's annual ball last night. 'Self-censorship: if that comes in, everything will end ... The ability to serve the public will be sacrificed.'

Bokhary, 64, (pictured) said internal, rather than external, regulations could jeopardise press freedom.

The relationship between the judiciary and the fourth estate was a 'symbiosis'. 'The judiciary protects the media and vice versa,' he said.

Bokhary said independence was of utmost importance to the judiciary, reiterating his disapproval of any attempt to ask Beijing to interpret the Basic Law. 'Hong Kong people do not expect us to do this,' he said.

Most recently, in the landmark 'Congo case' last year, the court had to rule on whether a state was immune from litigation in Hong Kong's courts. Bokhary opposed sending the matter to Beijing for interpretation.

He will step down in October after the government decided not to extend his tenure. Court of Appeal vice-president Mr Justice Robert Tang Ching, nine months Bokhary's senior, will fill his seat. Bokhary will remain as a non-permanent judge.