A press watchdog should be purely self-regulatory and uphold the rights of free speech and press freedom, the Privacy Commissioner said. In a counter-proposal to the blueprint released by the Law Reform Commission three months ago, Stephen Lau Ka-men dismissed the idea of the press council as a statutory body. He said its powers should be formed by industry agreement rather than by legislation. 'Our submission offers a pragmatic solution somewhere between inertia and the introduction of a statutory regulatory body,' Mr Lau said. The submission was released yesterday on the last day of a three-month consultation by the Law Reform Commission. But it does not comment on the commission's proposal of levying fines of $500,000 to $1 million on newspapers judged to have seriously violated privacy codes. It also skips a proposed power to demand the publication of an apology or correction in a form, content and location as many times as the council sees fit. But Mr Lau admitted a non-statutory body would have no legal power to impose any such sanctions and its decisions would not be legally binding. Other proposals that run counter to the Law Reform Commission's privacy sub-committee include: The chairman of the council should not be a member of the press but should be appointed by the industry rather than nominated by an appointments council appointed by an official chosen by the Chief Executive; and The council should directly draw up the code of professional ethics for journalists, rather than leaving the task to the Privacy Commissioner's office. Mr Lau's submission drew mixed reactions. Kenneth Leung Wai-yin, an associate professor at the Chinese University's School of Journalism and Communication, criticised it as a 'half-baked' idea. 'I don't see how you can make the council voluntary and its decisions binding at the same time,' he said.