Suspension of ruling on broadcasting law extended

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 February, 2008, 12:00am

The government yesterday won a further suspension of a magistrate's ruling that the broadcasting licensing law is unconstitutional.

Magistrate Douglas Yau Tak-hong issued the suspension after ruling in Eastern Court on January 8 that sections of the Telecommunications Ordinance breached the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights. He dismissed charges against six activists of Citizens' Radio who were charged with unlicensed broadcasting.

Mr Yau suspended his ruling after the prosecution, arguing he must allow time for the government to appeal. He adjourned the hearing until yesterday.

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Kevin Zervos yesterday sought a further extension until next month.

He said the prosecution had prepared the appeal documents but formal approval was required before the application could be submitted to the Court of First Instance.

Mr Zervos cited cases in which he suggested the magistrate had implied power to stay or postpone the suspension.

But Wong Hin-lee, for the six activists, said the prosecution's application was an 'abusive' delaying tactic.

In giving his reasons for the extra extension - until March 11 - Mr Yau said that if he did not extend the suspension it might cause chaos and confusion in the community.

As the public does not know where to stand on the licensing issue, it 'simply would be unacceptable'.

Furthermore, public interest demanded that the broadcasting licensing laws be maintained, Mr Yau said.

Mr Yau repeated that it was illegal to broadcast without a licence.

The six activists involved in the case are station convenor Tsang Kin-shing, guest announcer and legislator Leung Kwok-hung, Lo Chau, Chan Miu-tak, Poon Tat-keung and Yang Kuang.

In last month's judgment, Mr Yau said the ordinance gave the chief executive 'unfettered and unchecked' power to control who could conduct radio broadcasts.

He said this breached freedom-of-expression provisions in the Bill of Rights and the Basic Law.

Outside court, the six activists waved banners and chanted slogans.

Tsang said he was disappointed and felt regret because the case had been further delayed.

He said Citizens' Radio would not go back on air until April.

Tsang said he hoped the government would make use of the extra time to propose an amendment of the ordinance.