Media groups attack proposal as invitation to government meddling The Law Reform Commission has recommended the creation of an independent statutory body with the power to name and shame newspapers and magazines that unjustifiably invade people's privacy. The recommendation was included in a 433-page report released by the commission yesterday. It came more than five years after the commission's initial consultation paper on the issue, which sparked heated debate about regulating the press and led to the formation of the Press Council and a code of ethics for journalists. The report has been passed on to the Home Affairs Bureau, which yesterday said it was studying it. The government must now decide how to proceed, but it has yet to act on commission reports from several years ago, including one on stalking and another on debt-collection agencies. The initial consultation paper on media intrusion called for a government-appointed statutory body that could impose hefty fines on newspapers and magazines that breached its privacy code. Press groups attacked the report as an invitation to the government to interfere in press freedom. But the proposal unveiled yesterday called for a press commission comprised of members nominated by the industry, non-governmental organisations and professional bodies. The chief executive would be required to appoint the nominees unless there was 'procedural impropriety'. The body would have authority over all newspapers and magazines. Members would be chosen from the print media and public, and include an academic, a retired judge and a victim of press intrusion. It would have the power to demand that print media publish corrections and may seek court orders requiring publishers to take action on a complaint. It would also be required to draft a privacy code. The proposed commission should not have the power to compel a journalist to give evidence or reveal sources, nor should it be able to impose fines or demand apologies from publishers, the report recommended. The commission would be funded through a levy on newspapers and magazines, as well as through public revenue. 'Newspapers and magazines would have the right to appeal to the Court of Appeal on decisions and the commission would have a duty to publish annual reports and conduct its affairs with full transparency,' said John Bacon-Shone, head of the law reform subcommittee on privacy. 'It would have strictly limited power to impose sanctions - no fines, compensation to victims or apology orders, but only reprimands and the order for the media to publish its decisions.' Despite changes to the initial proposal, media groups yesterday reacted in much the same way, opposing any government involvement in regulating the press. Hong Kong Press Council chairman Edward Chen Kwan-yiu said the proposals would create the perception that the government controlled the media. 'Enacting a new law would inevitably give the perception that the government may or can control the media,' he said. 'Our council operates the other way round: It was formed by the industry, with participation from other sectors.'