Macau threatens press freedom

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 May, 2012, 12:00am


Once again, a South China Morning Post photographer assigned to cover protests in Macau was denied entry to the city on Tuesday. The incident, the third of its kind in three years, is disturbing. It raises serious concerns over freedom of the press, which is guaranteed in the Basic Law of both Hong Kong and Macau. We demand the Macau authorities explain, rectify and apologise. This is not the first time Felix Wong Chi-keung has been barred from discharging his professional duties in the neighbouring city. On Tuesday, he was taken away by immigration officials at the counter when he tried to cover a series of protests scheduled on Labour Day there. He was told May 1 was a particularly sensitive date. Citing internal security rules, the officials told Wong that his presence might 'jeopardise public security'.

The reasons given are ridiculous. How would the presence of a photographer put public safety at risk? Wong is not a troublemaker. But he had been briefly detained in Beijing when covering the Olympic Games ticket sale chaos in 2008. The following year he was denied entry twice when covering news in Macau. The authorities later clarified the situation and privately admitted the entry denial was a mistake. Since then, Wong has been allowed to enter again on news assignment and leisure trips. This time, he was there to cover protests. This is legitimate news gathering.

Like Hong Kong, Macau enjoys freedom of the press, free expression and freedom of movement. They are constitutional rights guaranteed in the Basic Law. Regrettably, the protection has been repeatedly brushed aside by the authorities. The decision to reject Wong on public safety grounds is clearly wrong. It raises worrying questions over press freedom again. The authorities must explain clearly their decision and give assurances that legitimate news gathering will not be restricted in future.