The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has condemned the government for its discrimination against online media, after several online media outlets said that their reporters were barred from covering the New Territories East by-election vote counting on Sunday night.
“What happened last night is ridiculous given the growing significance of online media nowadays,” Vice Chairman of HKJA Shirley Yam told HKFP.
“It contravenes not only the press freedom promised by the Basic Law but also the policy of a creative Hong Kong pitched by the Chief Executive.”
Francis Moriarty from Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) also said that the government and the legislature should have a dialog about “the challenge posed by non-traditional media and student journalism”.
“The profession is radically changing, which needs to be recognised,” he told HKFP. “Journalism educators need to stand up for their students because we cannot train future reporters and photographers without having them cover real news events, like elections, and put their work online.”
Varsity & sister mag UBeat refused entry to #NTEast #ByElection media centre. Staff: only invited media allowed pic.twitter.com/Ftvz9UVEP4
— Varsity CUHK (@varsitycuhk) February 28, 2016
Several online media outlets, including StandNews and Initium, as well as Chinese University student magazines Varsity and uBeat, have said that their reporters were prevented from covering the count at Tiu Keng Leng Sports Centre as they were not on the “invited” list.
Initium further enquired about the standards and procedures for selecting media to be invited, but the government Information Service Department Information Officer gave no response.
Apparently to be let in, you have to be on a “list”. No transparency on who gets on the list or how to get invited https://t.co/P0RwAd0iDR
— Yuen Chan (@xinwenxiaojie) February 28, 2016
There were different entrances for the public and for media at the count. StandNews reported that reporters from TVB News were already in the media centre when its own reporters arrived at around 10 pm. Reporters for the three online media outlets were made to wait in the queue for “public” seats and could only enter the counting venue after 11 pm, when vote counting was well under way.