Stars press for action on privacy rights laws

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 February, 2007, 12:00am

Industry says survey shows public thinks media intrusion is worsening

A group representing the entertainment industry yesterday challenged the government to take action against media invasion of privacy, with a survey showing the public thinks the problem should be tackled.

The survey, commissioned by the Hong Kong Performing Artists Guild and conducted by the Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme, found 54 per cent of 1,000 people interviewed supported strengthening legislation to curb privacy intrusion by the media.

Thirty-nine per cent disagreed. The questionnaire pointed out concerns about infringement of press freedom.

About 80 per cent of interviewees supported the Law Reform Commission's proposal to create two new criminal offences: to prohibit a person from entering or remaining on private premises as a trespasser with intent to observe, overhear or obtain personal information; and to prohibit people from using a recording device to obtain personal information of an individual on private premises.

Actor John Shum Kin-fun, head of the guild's special group looking at protection of privacy rights, said at a press conference yesterday: 'The government should seriously look into this survey. They have to answer the people's call.'

Robert Chung Ting-yiu, of the HKU programme, said the survey was conducted in the second half of last year because of frustration with the government's 'inaction' over the commission's proposal, released in March last year.

Shum said: 'We have all along made it very clear that we support the commission's proposal. We are not asking the government to take it wholesale; just don't ignore the situation.'

Guild chairman Eric Tsang Chi-wai hoped the survey would initiate more discussion in society and pressure media groups to be ethical when covering stories on stars.

The artists' campaign was sparked off when Easy Finder magazine published photos of Twins star Gillian Chung Yan-tung changing clothes in Malaysia last August.

John Bacon-Shone, who headed the commission's subcommittee on privacy, said he did not expect the government to act in the short term on the proposal for the new criminal offences. 'It will take something more serious than Gillian Chung's case to persuade the government that it is a more widespread problem,' he said.

A spokeswoman from the Hong Kong Journalists Association said: 'While the association agrees that the press is not blameless ... taking a legislative approach is fundamentally wrong - as it runs counter to the principle of voluntary self-regulation and will inevitably weaken freedom of expression.'

A Home Affairs spokesman said it was important to strike a balance between press freedom and protection of rights. The Legislative Council will discuss the issue on February 9.