In rush to reform, don't muzzle media

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2011, 12:00am


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We hope the British judges and politicians soon to scrutinise the role and excesses of their nation's press remember that any decisions will resonate far beyond their shores.

As a country where for centuries freedom of expression has been considered a virtue - rather than a threat or mere aspiration - Britain has long set a powerful example across the world.

That role has only been magnified by the wonders of the World Wide Web that allow millions of new international readers to dip daily into their favourite British titles.

And now as it considers regulations, from the handling of press complaints to media ownership, Britain may well unwittingly set an example for governments of different shades that are only too eager to find fresh excuses to keep the muzzles on their own press.

That, sadly, includes many nations in East Asia.

We know, too, that the freedoms Hong Kong enjoys under the Basic Law cannot be taken for granted, despite what on the surface appears to be one of the liveliest and most diverse media anywhere in the region.

Self-censorship is an acknowledged problem in sections of the Hong Kong media, while forces exist within the establishment that would like to see RTHK effectively shackled.

Some quarters here will be watching Britain's moves against tabloid journalism very closely, just as they did when the BBC faced criticism over its controversial reporting of internal British debates over the Iraq war.

Undoubtedly the behaviour of the Murdoch empire, the police and the politicians looks decidedly shabby.

But higher virtues are at stake and we are left to hope these will not be forgotten.