Several online media outlets have reported that their staff were prevented from entering the media centre to cover the vote counting for the New Territories East by-election on Sunday.
StandNews, Initium and InMediaHK reported government staff members saying that “only invited media could report [on vote counting]” at the media centre located in Tiu Keng Leng Sports Centre. Chinese University student magazines Varsity and uBeat were also barred from entering as “media”.
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
Initium further enquired about the standards and procedures for selecting media to be invited, and why reporting election news – which is of public interest – is also subject to “invitation thresholds”. Initium said that the government Information Service Department Information Officer gave no response.
Francis Moriarty from Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) 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.”
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.