Beijing defends new rules for HK and Macau media

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 February, 2009, 12:00am

Beijing said yesterday that new rules requiring Hong Kong and Macau-based journalists going to the mainland for work to obtain permits beforehand were not 'backsliding' from previous arrangements.

Under the new rules, journalists from the two cities going to the mainland for work must carry a permit from the central government's liaison office. It is issued by the All-China Journalists Association.

Hong Kong and Macau correspondents based on the mainland are not affected.

Hong Kong media outlets have raised fears that the requirement will lead to censorship by the authorities. But an official from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said such fears were 'unnecessary' and promised there would be no censorship in the processing of permits. He said permits would be granted as long as news organisations could provide information on the dates, destination and purpose of visits.

The official, who was speaking to a group of Hong Kong journalists, said the purpose of the permits was to serve as official identification for reporters and to 'weed out fake journalists'.

Each permit would be valid for one month and could be used repeatedly, but only to the specified destination.

'Our original intention in drafting these regulations was to improve reporters' working conditions. We never meant to backslide from previous arrangements.'

He was referring to the arrangements Beijing imposed on Hong Kong and Macau journalists after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989.

Reporters from the two cities had to apply for permits before they could work on the mainland. But such applications were from time to time rejected and the process was tedious and time-consuming, rendering it almost impractical.

The official assured Hong Kong reporters this would not happen again under the new rules.

Officials from the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office would soon be sent to liaison offices in the two cities to help speed up the processing system.

Speaking in Hong Kong, the central government's liaison office director, Gao Siren, said the new measure was aimed at making life easier for local journalists. He denied it would be a form of censorship.