Special rules sought for lawyers and journalists

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2006, 12:00am

Legislators yesterday demanded the government protect the rights of journalists and lawyers by ensuring that any eavesdropping or interception of their work be authorised by a judge.

Under new draft legislation on covert surveillance, law enforcement agencies can intercept and snoop on information that is subject to legal professional privilege or journalistic material during investigations into serious crime without the authorisation of a panel of judges.

Under other legislation, police and the Independent Commission Against Corruption must obtain a warrant from a judge to search or seize journalists' work, but the new law would enable them to intercept journalists' work in the course of investigation or for the prevention of serious crimes.

The Frontier legislator and former journalist Emily Lau Wai-hing said: 'If it is something that involves legal professional privilege and the media, I think it should be up to a judge to give approval'.

'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung insisted that the government and law enforcers should not have the power to eavesdrop on the media because 'this law targets people who monitor you', he told officials from the Security Bureau and Department of Justice.

Permanent Secretary for Security Stanley Ying Yiu-hong said the covert surveillance law was not intended to target journalists, but deal with serious crime and threats to public security.