The Ombudsman recently ruled that the Hong Kong Journalists Association’s complaint against the government’s policy to deny digital-only media access to its government press events and information dissemination system substantiated.
It called on the government to review soonest its practise and draw up related guidelines.
HKJA welcomes the ruling, demanding that an accreditation system for online-only media be introduced as soon as possible following consultation with the industry.
In its six-page judgement, the Ombudsman pointed out that nearly three years have elapsed since the government made a undertaking in the Legislative Council to ensure its press policy would be in pace with the change in the media industry, and yet the government has not made any progress in this issue.
“The new media in Hong Kong and other parts of the world have shown rapid development. These new media are on a par with the traditional media in terms of functionality, and some have even outpaced the latter.,” said its verdict. “Information Services Department(ISD) should think out of the box.”
The Ombudsman was also not convinced by the government’s argument that opening its door to online-only media would result in overcrowding and security risk. “The blanket restriction was clearly more than necessary”, it said.
It noted that the department has not provided data to show that in the past, there were incidents in which the number of journalists seeking accessa had exceeded the capacity of the venue.
Although ISD has pointed out that members of a few organisations had disturbed the order in certain events, the Ombudsman considered that the department should make decisions based on the track records of each media organisation
“It should not, just because of a few isolated incidents, turn down all requests from digital only media across the board,
The Ombudsman recommends the ISD:
1. Review soonest its practice of denying all online media not affiliated to “mass media organisations” access for on-the-spot reporting, and adopt a more open policy to keep pace with the times;
2. Review and relax as far as practicable the eligibility criteria for registration as GNMIS users and draw up related guidelines for its staff and media organisations; and
3. Pending completion of its reviews, be more flexible in dealing with request from individual media organisations and allows them to carry out news reporting wherever possible.