Press freedom in Hong Kong

Will relaxed rules for Hong Kong’s online media usher in digital age?

Industry welcomes ‘long overdue decision’ to let digital news outlets cover official events, but some are still sceptical of terms for eligibility

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 September, 2017, 8:37pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 2:42pm

Digital media outlets in Hong Kong would be allowed to cover official events and receive press releases or invitations under ­relaxed rules, the government said yesterday.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the ­arrangement would be “fair and feasible”, but some industry members criticised the guidelines as being unclear and raised ­concerns over whether they would be rejected because of political reasons.

The ombudsman last year urged the government to review its policy on online media.

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“The mechanism aims to ­ensure the professionalism of outlets covering and reporting on government news,” Lam said ­before an Executive Council meeting.

She had requested senior officials to extend the duration of press conferences to take more questions from journalists.

Online media listed under the Registration of Local Newspapers Ordinance may now apply to the Information Services Department to receive press releases and media invitations.

But Wong Yeung-tat, founder of Passion Times. an online news outlet which previously faced ­rejections to cover government events, said authorities failed to specify ineligible conditions.

“We have met the [basic] ­requirements long ago, but what do they mean by ‘advocacy publications’ or those ‘failing’ to follow instructions of government ­officers, as grounds for rejection?” Wong, who is also a former leader of radical group Civic Passion, said.

The Hong Kong Journalists ­Association welcomed the ­government’s “long overdue decision to lift its bar” on online media.

The group said it would also monitor the implementation of its accreditation policy to ­ensure all media were treated fairly.

Depending on how the new plan would be implemented, the association said it would decide whether to press on with a legal challenge against the government’s online media policy.

The Hong Kong News Executives’ Association said the government should ensure fair treatment to media of different platforms and types.

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The department said it would review the new policy in about six months.