HK journalist groups hit back at mainland over permits regulation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2009, 12:00am

Hong Kong journalists' groups were at odds with mainland authorities yesterday after the office responsible for Hong Kong affairs said local reporters had found a requirement to apply for permits before covering news on the mainland 'necessary' and 'understandable'.

The Hong Kong News Executives' Association and the Hong Kong Journalists Association said they found the requirement an unnecessary hindrance and it should be scrapped.

Their response was triggered by a letter from the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office to National People's Congress delegate Bernard Chan.

In the letter, the office said it had met journalist associations in Hong Kong and found that they understood the need for the rules and felt they had not obstructed their work.

Mr Chan made a written submission to the national legislature in March, urging the central government to be cautious when implementing media regulations, and to strengthen communication with the Hong Kong press.

The office wrote: 'Together with the All-China Journalists Association, we have made a trip to Hong Kong and communicated widely with major media organisations, the Hong Kong News Executives' Association, the Hong Kong Federation of Journalists etc.

'After a period of implementation, Hong Kong media generally feel that the regulations have in fact not obstructed reporters' work.'

Under one of 10 regulations announced in February, journalists from Hong Kong and Macau must obtain a permit from the central government's liaison office before going to the mainland to cover news. Each permit is valid for a month and can be used only in the region specified.

The vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong News Executives' Association, May Chan Suk-mei, said the liaison office had been processing applications very quickly.

'But it is still impossible for a journalist to wait for a permit when there is breaking news,' she said. 'For the country to build an open image and for the convenience of news coverage, why don't we eliminate the complex documentation requirements?'

The Hong Kong Journalists Association said the rule was a hindrance.

'I find the requirement unnecessary. It should just be scrapped,' chairwoman Mak Ying-ting said.