Registration system must apply to both online and traditional media in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 September, 2017, 9:03am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 September, 2017, 10:54pm

Online media is booming in Hong Kong. As free circulation of information is highly respected in our society, the government and relevant organisations have started looking into the issue, to ensure that the participation of online media is arranged in a fair and reasonable way (“Doors to official events open for digital media”, September 20).

Under the government’s current practice, invitations to press briefings are often given to media groups registered with the Information Services Department. This includes newspapers and magazines, news agencies, and radio and television stations registered or licensed under the relevant ordinances.

These media groups adhere to these ordinances. They act in a responsible manner to ensure fair and accurate reporting of the news. The same standards of reporting and adherence to regulations should apply to online media.

When a government department in any country is giving a press briefing, there are commonly accepted rules of eligibility.

A news organisation will receive an invitation if it meets certain criteria, for example, size of editorial staff and an established engagement in the news reporting business. These are reasonable and are seen as the minimum requirements. Without them, such briefings would become a chaotic ­

free-for-all.

When granting access to traditional and online media, the government must maintain a level playing field

However, with online media organisations, there are a lot grey areas. Many of these groups exist in Hong Kong and use the word “news” in their names. When it is holding a press briefing, if the government does not stick to the established criteria and allows all these internet “news” gatherers in, there will be a substantial increase in the number of reporters attending.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has said “fair and feasible” arrangements will be made for online media outlets at official events such as Q&A sessions.

Even with a spike in the number of internet journalists, the government will still have to ensure that information is released in an orderly and timely fashion.

There should be some licensing arrangement for electronic media. With a regulatory system in place, internet news providers are more likely to follow a rigorous press code. When granting access to traditional and online media, the government must maintain a level playing field.

To ensure the quality of news reporting is not impaired and freedom of the press to cover all issues is respected, the government should devise a comprehensive registration system that covers traditional and online media.

Keith Kam, chairman, Newspaper Society of Hong Kong