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LAW

Press freedom concerns over anti-stalking law

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2012, 4:21am
 

Fewer than half of 500 submissions in reply to a consultation on proposed anti-stalking legislation backed the law, the government said yesterday.

This emerged when the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau gave the Legislative Council a summary of the responses. It said the proposal was most strongly opposed by journalists, followed by groups including human rights, financial services and social organisations.

The government said 46 per cent supported the proposal, 35 per cent opposed it, with the rest indicating no preference.

"Of the 506 written submissions, more than 40 per cent express views over press freedom and/or the proposed defences," it said. "Of these ... 85 per cent are of the view that the 'reasonable pursuit' defence is not sufficient insofar as protection of press freedom ... is concerned."

None of the responding media and journalists' groups regarded the defence - which applies to people stalking for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime, or under lawful authority - as protective.

The Bar Association objected to any privileged treatment for media staff. "Any separate defence for the press ... will give them, in effect, a free hand to follow whomsoever [they choose] by whichever mode they choose to employ. Such a defence can easily be abused," the summary quoted the association as saying.

The financial services sector also raised concerns over possible impact on lawful activities such as debt collection and aggressive marketing.

They feared debtors could abuse the legislation by quoting "alarm" and "distress" to fend off collectors or delay repayment.

A Legco panel meeting is scheduled next Monday to discuss the proposal.

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