SHOW-BUSINESS personalities have sided with journalists against a government plan to appoint a press council to punish media invasions of privacy. The move contrasts sharply with their usual complaints about alleged misreporting and the paparazzi's intrusions. Actors and directors warned that an appointed council could threaten press freedom. Producer and actor Dennis Chan Kwok-sun, of the Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild, said the organisation supported a press council to promote media ethics but the Government must not have a hand in it. Film director Gordon Chan Ka-sheung said it could set a dangerous precedent for the Government to curb the media with the excuse of protecting privacy. The controversial plan by the Law Reform Commission's privacy sub-committee proposes a press council be set up to reprimand the media and impose fines when people's privacy has been invaded. The fines collected would go towards paying for the council's operations. Members of the council would be appointed by a committee selected by a respected person recognised by the Chief Executive. The convenor of the Executive Council, Leung Chun-ying, and veteran politician Dr Chung Sze-yuen have backed the idea. Tycoon Li Ka-shing has also publicly voiced his support. But Professor Leonard Chu Li, Dean of Hong Kong Baptist University's School of Communication, said press councils in Australia, Britain, Taiwan and America did not have the power to punish the media and they were not appointed. Dennis Chan urged the media to set up its own press council. 'It seems to be all talk and no action. It is no good only saying it could harm press freedom. It is not good enough to say we know there are problems but then nothing is done to improve the situation,' he said. The chairman of the News Executives' Association, Ronald Chiu Ying-chun, promised a set of guidelines would be released for consultation in a month. Mr Chiu, speaking at a Metro Radio forum yesterday, accused the privacy sub-committee of being unrepresentative as none of its members was a journalist. 'It seems the proposals were written up by a group of people who do not know much about the operation of today's media and its environment,' he said. 'But they locked themselves up in an air-conditioned meeting room and came up with something to punish the media because of a couple of reports of paparazzi chasing after showbiz stars.' The secretary of the commission's sub-committee on privacy, Godfrey Kan Ka-fai, dismissed Mr Chiu's criticism. 'One of the members, Mr Wong Kwok-wah, used to be the chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists' Association. He should be able to reflect the views of the media,' said Mr Kan. Mr Wong - who now works for Asia2000, a leading book publisher and distributor - was a core member of the association during the 1980s. Mr Kan also accused the media of failing to set up a regulatory framework or guidelines despite 10 years of discussion. Woo Chi-wai of the Democratic Party said many people had confused press ethics with privacy invasion. TYPE OF STORY THAT WILL BE OUTLAWED IF RULES ARE APPROVED The News: provisonal Regional Council members Ngan Kam-chuen, Chan Ping and two others were accused of visiting call grils after a soccer match in Panyu City, Guangdong, in March. How it was obtained: Eastweek reporters and photographers followed the group after the match, waited in their hotel lobby and listened in on their conversations while secretly taking photographs. Why it was of public interest: Mr Ngan and Mr Chan, formerly of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong kong, apologised for their behaviour. The party drew up a code of conduct to govern members' behaviour. The News: Hospital research assistant Tsun Shui-luen faxed Secretary of Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie's medical records to two Chinese-language newspapers in April last year to prove she had colon cancer treatment, contrary to government claims that she was admitted for observation on a stomach problem. How it was obtained: Use of information that was verifiable but difficult to obtain from an anonymous source. Why it was of public interest: The story exposed the credibility gap of the Government Information Services. It has been unwritten rule between the administration and the media that the official information service culd put a public relations 'spin' on stories but not to deliberately gove out false or misleading information. The news: Former police chief Li kwan-ha found work with tycoon Li ka-shing's Cheung Kong group without asking for permission from civil service. the story broke in May 1995 after he started work upon pre-retirement leave in July 1994. How it was obtained: reporters stalked Mr Li for days until they managed to follow him to work at a Cheung Kong office. Why it was of public interest: Mr Li was told by the civil service to stay away from private sector employment for six months. The Government tightened up employment rules for senior officials after they left their jobs.