The government’s Information Services Department has told HKFP that it is “conducting a review on the possibility of admitting online media” to government press conferences.

The message was a response to HKFP’s request to attend events related to Sunday’s upcoming Chief Executive Committee election and observe the vote count. It is unclear how long the government’s review will take.

On Tuesday, the Ombudsman – an independent investigatory body which holds the government to account – ruled that long-standing policies barring digital outlets from conferences and press releases were “vague” and “unfair.” It agreed with the Hong Kong Journalists Association that the industry is changing and digital outlets are outpacing traditional media sources. It also said that the industry and the public are given “no clue” about the government’s criteria for approving access.

digital media

Outlets such as HKFP have long been barred from directly asking questions of officials and obtaining press releases. Multiple local and international press freedom watchdogs have condemned the policy over the years.

On Wednesday, seven digital media outlets issued a joint statement urging the government to relax the ban. In March, five outlets complained of being unable to exercise their reporting rights during a by-election. The Hong Kong Journalists Association called the ban a “ridiculous” affront to Basic Law. In May, a student editor at the Chinese University began legal action over the government’s barring of student reporters from press conferences.

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.