Journalists’ association takes legal action over restricted access to Hong Kong chief executive election

Hong Kong Journalists Association applies for judicial review of digital media outlets being barred from entry on election day

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 9:11pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 9:50pm

The Hong Kong Journalists ­Association on Thursday applied for a judicial review demanding an interim order to allow its full members access to the media centre and events for the chief executive election on Sunday.

The court order was among eight remedies sought in a legal bid to challenge what the independent trade union described as unconstitutional reporting restrictions, which ban online media’s access to press events and facilities on the election day, as well as the daily use of the government news portal.

A hearing has been scheduled at High Court on Friday afternoon, with limited press seats offered on a first come, first served basis.

The legal challenge came after the director of information services, Joe Wong Chi-cho on Tuesday refused to grant access to digital-only news outlets or social media platforms, explaining that his department was still reviewing the arrangements for press admission and registration.

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“The existing arrangement of granting access to traditional media only would continue to apply on the chief executive election day,” the letter read.

But the association argued in its application for judicial review that the existing arrangements are unconstitutional and inconsistent with the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights and the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights.

Their lawyers also drew attention to an investigation last year by the Ombudsman, which found the government had not made any progress to cater the changing needs of society nearly three years after lawmaker Charles Mok raised the issue at Legislative Council in January 2014.

The association suggested that authorities could adopt its membership classification system to identify eligible journalists, such as full members whose income is largely derived from journalistic work, in determining access.

It is also seeking a court order to relax the existing eligibility criteria pending the review.

The department said in a reply to the Post that it was inappropriate to comment further given the present legal proceedings.

Last week, the association joined 11 other news organisations in writing to the incumbent leader Leung Chun-ying and the three hopefuls to appeal for access.

All three candidates wrote back and called for relevant authorities to facilitate newgathering of professional online media.