Journalists see red over ambulance secrecy rule

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


Internal guidelines prevent the Fire Services Department from telling the media about cases involving an ambulance unless at least eight people were injured or ill, the Journalists' Association was told yesterday.

The guideline was revealed at a meeting between the department and the association over the release of information.

An association study found the department released an average of only one in 10 incident reports involving ambulances since it fully adopted a digital command and control communications system on February 1.

Maisy Lo Man-sze, of the association's press freedom subcommittee, said she had never heard of such a regulation and found it unacceptable. 'They could not explain how they came up with 'eight'. They only said they had been using this guideline for a long time,' she said.

Lo said if government officials fell ill and called an ambulance, it would involve public interest, but under the department's guideline, the media would not be informed. But the department had agreed to consider if injury cases involving fewer than eight victims could be made public.

The department said it operated fire, emergency rescue and ambulance services and only details of the ambulance category were limited.

Fire services officer Lo Siu-hang said the definition had been in force for 'many years'. 'We took legal advice and found that cases of personal illness and injury do not involve the public interest,' he said.