Stalking law 'has to cover media'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2012, 12:00am


A chorus of voices is opposing media attempts to be exempted from a proposed anti-stalking law, with some criticising the paparazzi as seeking to rise above the rights of others.

Singers, actors and other entertainers are among critics arguing an anti-stalking law is badly needed.

'An artiste's private life has nothing to do with public interest,' John Shum Kin-fun, vice-chairman and film producer of the Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild, said of the paparazzi harassment that many stars faced.

'The harm done to a victim is mainly psychological, not physical, and the friends and family members of the victim are also affected.'

And the lack of an anti-stalking law was the reason police seldom entertained their complaints, he said.

Shum joined representatives of women's rights groups, human rights groups and other agencies at a Legislative Council constitutional affairs panel meeting yesterday to discuss a proposal to make stalking a criminal offence.

Some human rights and journalism groups were concerned that the law could easily be abused by the government as a means to suppress civil rights and press freedom.

But Cheung Yat-chuen, of the Tsuen Wan Youth Association, said: 'The media should not think they are above the law or other people's rights. A press card is not a licence to harass people.'

His views were echoed by Benny Poon Cheuk-bun, of the D Dong youth group, who said excluding newsgathering from the law would complicate the issue.

'What if a media worker commits an act of stalking outside his work hours?' Poon asked. 'What if the after-hours stalking involves public interest?'

Adeline Wong Ching-man, undersecretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, said the defence of reasonableness would provide flexibility and cover press freedom. Consultation will close on March 31.