Legislators have cast doubt on the need to give a watchdog on press ethics statutory protection from being sued for libel, saying it would damage a free press. Some also said there was no need to set up a statutory body under legislation to judge and enforce morality because existing protection was adequate. At a meeting of the Legco home affairs panel yesterday, several lawmakers disputed the Press Council's plan to seek immunity from prosecution. Independent legislator Audrey Eu Yuet-mee questioned whether it was necessary to give power to the council to condemn newspapers for unethical practices, such as carrying too much sex or violence. She said whether a press report was indecent or violent was subjective and setting up a statutory body outside existing controls would create an organisation to judge what is moral. Both Democrat Andrew Cheng Kar-foo and Cyd Ho Sau-lan, of The Frontier, said the council would affect press freedom. At present, the council has 11 members, but Apple Daily, Oriental Daily News and the Sun are not members. Council chairman Edward Chen Kwan-yiu said the protection was needed to ensure the council functioned well when it criticised non-member newspapers. Mak Yin-ting, who chairs the Hong Kong Journalists' Association, said giving statutory protection to the council would open a 'back door' for the Government to intervene in freedom of speech.