Macau reporters complain of worsening media censorship

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 May, 2007, 12:00am

Critics are warning of worsening censorship despite the growth of the Macau media market and are urging the government to stop meddling with press freedom.

The warning comes after a rare standoff between Macau journalists and the government.

The Macau Media Workers Association, a group of about 100 frontline reporters, decried what it saw as long-standing censorship. Their anger was fuelled by the government's handling of Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah's remarks on the Labour Day rally, when a police officer fired five warning shots in the air during a demonstration.

Only a government-owned television station was allowed to film Mr Ho's meeting with local journalists on May 4, and government information officials supervised the editing of the footage before it was released to other media.

'We strongly condemn the Information Bureau's interference in press freedom and editorial independence,' the association said in a statement on May 11. It accused the government of meddling with press freedom in recent years.

The bureau said it 'absolutely' respected press freedom. 'On May 4, our staff went to Teledifusao de Macau only to obtain footage for use on the Information Bureau's website,' it said in a statement.

Legislator Jose Coutinho said the editorial integrity of many local media had been tainted by government subsidies. After the handover, the media often had been afraid to be critical, as the government had used money to silence them, he said.

A controversial media subsidy scheme was launched shortly after the December 1999 handover.

Mr Coutinho said the Portuguese-language press in Macau was largely independent despite government funding - perhaps due to the long tradition of press freedom in Europe.

From Friday, the tabloid Macau Daily Times will compete with the Macau Post Daily in a burgeoning market for English-language publications - the key growth area in the city's media sector.

Macau's 500,000 residents are served by eight Chinese-language and three Portuguese-language daily newspapers, five Chinese-language and one Portuguese-language weekly, an English-language daily and dozens of magazines. A host of Hong Kong publications can also be bought in the city.