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Macau

Macau journalists are concerned about press freedom and access to official information, survey shows

Lack of government transparency among issues cited in quest to perform ‘priceless social role’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 September, 2017, 10:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 September, 2017, 10:33pm

A pioneering study has revealed significant levels of concern about press freedom and access to official information among journalists in Macau working in Portuguese and English-language media.

The head of the journalists’ group that carried out the study last year called for greater cooperation with fellow professionals in Chinese-language media, citing information suggesting this larger group faces “a tougher environment, more challenges, restraints and pressure” in carrying out their work.

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The first report of its kind, compiled by the Macau Portuguese and English Press Association, distilled the results of a detailed survey of 44 working journalists in the world’s richest gaming destination.

Three quarters of those surveyed said they had experienced a degree of “political, economical, social, cultural or institutional restraint” while working.

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Titled “A depiction of the freedom of the press and access to sources of information for working journalists in Macau’s Portuguese and English speaking media outlets”, the report also highlighted significant restrictions on access to information in the judicial and executive branches of administration in the former Portuguese enclave.

Respondents pointed to a number of flaws and inadequacies within the government spokesperson system, characterising the culture as one of “opacity, which poses a number of obstacles for journalists to perform their priceless social role”.

These decisions have become a commonplace and signal a worrying trend
José Carlos Matias, Macau Portuguese and English Press Association

In a statement accompanying the report, José Carlos Matias, president of the association’s board of directors, referred to “some disturbing incidents” that took place after the survey was completed. The survey was conducted between July and November last year.

“Most notable, externally, were decisions by the local authorities to deny entry to Hong Kong journalists who were coming to Macau to cover the aftermath of Typhoon Hato and the recent legislative elections,” he said.

“These decisions have become a commonplace and signal a worrying trend, which hinders the free movement and deals a blow to freedom of the press of our colleagues from Hong Kong.”

Matias described the survey as a first step towards a wider depiction of freedom of the press and access to information in Macau. He said it would be followed by a refined approach to better assess internal and external constraints, such as self-censorship.