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Press freedom in Hong Kong

Hong Kong online news media moves are welcome

It is only fair for the government to allow equal access to press conferences and events for bona fide reporting outlets, be they traditional or internet based

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 September, 2017, 4:06am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 September, 2017, 4:06am

Adaptation in the fast-changing internet age is a serious challenge for governments the world over. The latest example is how to cope with the proliferation of online news media. For years, Hong Kong officials seemed to think that these “non-mainstream” outlets had no place in government press conferences and events, even though their content has, increasingly, become the leading source of information for many. Given the online trend is unlikely to be reversed, alienation is hardly the way forward.

Opinion: Hong Kong online news media are welcome to join the official fun

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is to be commended for adopting a more accommodating stance. She promised to review the situation even before taking over the helm in July, and it is understood that she stands firm on relaxing the ban, despite resistance from some traditional news organisations.

That it has taken so long for a change is to be regretted. Following a joint protest by the aggrieved outlets, the previous administration pledged to update its media policy in accordance with the changing environment of the industry. It escalated in a court battle earlier this year when the government insisted banning online media from covering the chief executive election.

Similar to the requirements in some overseas countries, outlets should primarily be news-oriented with original content and updates at least five times a week. Disruption to the orderly conduct of press conferences and events may result in disqualification. Therefore the rules appear to be reasonable.

Will relaxed rules for Hong Kong’s online media usher in digital age?

The concerns expressed by some traditional news media, such as more reporters vying for slots to ask questions, are not unfounded. It is good that the government is committed to giving more time for questions and answers. The arrangements will be reviewed in six months following their implementation.

The relaxation has been long overdue. It is only fair for the government to allow equal access for bona fide news outlets, be they traditional or online.

It is to be hoped that the change will help enhance a vibrant media environment in Hong Kong.