The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has condemned the government’s continuous exclusion of digital media outlets from attending official events for reporting purposes.
On Tuesday, the Correctional Services Department denied Hong Kong Free Press access to a media visit to Stanley Prison and Cape Collinson Correctional Institution, citing “venue constraints.”
It referred HKFP to a written reply to the legislature by Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah. He justified the government’s long-standing policy to bar digital outlets from attending government events as there lacks a clear definition of “online media” and because of limitations such as venue constraints.
Chinese digital news outlet Stand News was also denied access to another media event on Tuesday. The outlet said it received an invitation from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department last week to a press event.
But the department told them on Tuesday that the invitation was sent in error. The outlet was told that “the practice of the Information Services Department is that only print media and electronic media are invited, while online media outlets are excluded.”
“The government have for years been ignoring online media outlets’ right to report. The Information Services Department even disregards the report of the Ombudsman. This is unacceptable,” HKJA said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The report, released last December, suggested the department review its policy denying online media as ‘mass media’ as soon as possible… We think that the long-standing policy goes against the trend of the international community.”
“We urge all chief executive candidates to promise that, once elected, they will give access to online media outlets to the government’s events and press conferences,” it added.
Last December, the Ombudsman ruled that the government’s guidelines on media access were “vague” and that the industry is given “no clue” about their criteria.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International slammed the Information Services Department for its “backward” and “bizarre” policy.
Following the Ombudsman’s report, HKFP asked the government whether there was a timeline for the review and if access could be guaranteed for the chief executive election to be held in March.
But the Information Services Department did not give any timeline nor indicate whether online media outlets would be allowed to cover the election.