The government’s Information Services Department (ISD) has maintained its position that digital media outlets will not be allowed to access events related to the chief executive election on Sunday.

The decision came despite months of criticism from local and international media watchdogs, and a decision by the Ombudsman in December which ruled that the government should review its policy. Currently, digital media outlets are barred from accessing government press conferences and press releases, and are unable to ask questions of officials.

Local outlets with print editions, international broadcasters and news wires will be able to cover the elections as normal.

IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok wrote to the Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah on March 10 demanding a mechanism be set in place to allow online media to register and report on the election.

The ISD replied on Tuesday saying that it has generally accepted the Ombudsman’s recommendations and is reviewing the arrangements for the admission the media, and the criteria for registration as a user of the government press release system.

“Currently, there are a large number of websites which call themselves media, and their nature varies. There are controversies over whether to include them as mass news media organisations,” the reply read. “The ISD will complete the review as soon as possible and communicate with the industry regarding the results of the review.”

In a response to HKFP, it said that – as the review is incomplete – “the ISD will maintain the current reporting arrangements for the 2017 Chief Executive Election.” It added that reporters may obtain election information in the public area.

hkja letter

No timeline has been given for the review. The Hong Kong Journalists Association received a similar response from the ISD.

Mok said he was very disappointed over the ISD’s decision.

“Why is there not even a test run [on election day]? I have given suggestions many times, but the ISD keeps on delaying,” he said.

Last week, HKFP, along with 11 other media groups and journalist unions, wrote to Hong Kong’s three chief executive candidates asking them to urge the authorities to give digital media outlets full access to government events and facilities.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.