The Police Public Relations Branch (PPRB) says it has stopped its surreptitious recording of telephone conversations with reporters after it was revealed in the South China Morning Post. The recordings, which were made without the consent of journalists calling a media hotline for information, were abandoned in December. The Privacy Commissioner's office said it was about to investigate a complaint from the Hong Kong Journalists' Association when the branch advised it had stopped the recordings. Privacy Commissioner Stephen Lau Ka-men, who had expressed concern when the Post revealed the recordings in August, said he was satisfied now that the police had stopped the practice. 'If I am pleased it is because there is one less chance of privacy being compromised,' he said. It is not illegal in Hong Kong for either party to record phone calls and consent is not required from the person at the other end. But the Privacy Commissioner has been promoting what he calls 'good practice' and urging anyone who records conversations to alert callers. Journalists' association chair Mak Yin-ting said: 'We think PPRB was wrong to tape the calls without warning.' The association was worried recording would inhibit the free flow of information. The branch said yesterday it had stopped the practice to 'avoid causing any inconvenience to the media'. In August, the branch gave two different explanations to the Post for installing the monitoring system. 'Sometimes the inquiries and the answers are quite sensitive. So we want to follow the guidelines,' said a spokeswoman. In a later response, the branch said: 'The calls are recorded in order to improve the newsroom's service to the media and the public. For example, in the case of uncertainty on the exact questions raised by the media, the taped telephone conversation between PPRB staff and the reporter can be played back for clarification.'