Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has thrown her weight behind the police’s move to amend front-line rules for the media, saying it’s an “objective” and “open” decision that ensures all media can be treated equally.
In a social media post published on Friday, Lam said she has to “get the words off her chest” after seeing the police’s new definition of “media representative” still dominate news headlines after the amendment was made on Tuesday.
Carrie Lam reiterated that the Basic Law guarantees Hong Kong residents freedom of speech, of the press and of publication, saying it’s an “unchangeable fact”
Stressing that the change does not suppress any form of press freedom or screen out any journalist, she said it will allow professional journalists to report in restricted zones or film in special locations, and they’ll continue to be invited to press conferences and official events. Lam reiterated that the Basic Law guarantees Hong Kong residents freedom of speech, of the press and of publication, saying it’s an “unchangeable fact”.
“Media representatives” will now include reporters, photographers and television crews from media organizations that have registered with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government News and Media Information System or that are internationally recognized, well-known non-local news organizations, according to a police letter sent to various journalist groups.
Lam pointed out that although the GNMIS, in name, is a government news information system for forwarding news to the media, it can also be described as an important platform for the government to liaise with the press. She said media organizations subscribing to the GNMIS can receive information released by the Information Services Department, and will be invited to press conferences held by various bureau and departments or chaired by the chief executive, government bureaus and department heads.
Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung believes the change will make it more convenient for genuine journalists as they could report news events on the spot
Journalists from these media outlets can decide for themselves whether or not to attend these events. Lam explained that both local and overseas media outlets, regardless of their size, have been allowed to subscribe to the GNMIS over the years. The GNMIS has also been accepting subscriptions from more than 30 online-only media groups since she took office in 2017, allowing them to enjoy the services of other traditional media.
Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung said the latest amendment is “open and transparent” and will not affect journalists’ activities in any way.
During last year’s social unrest, he said he had seen reporters’ behavior change drastically after being used to reporting professionally and in a collaborative manner in the past. “They would not join activities that obstruct police operations or harm officers,” Tang said.
However, he had seen some people in yellow vests posing as journalists, taking part in protests, attacking officers and snatching away people being arrested.
Tang believes the change will make it more convenient for genuine journalists as they could report news events on the spot. He explained that under the new definition, any reporter wearing a yellow vest can still continue to cover events beyond the orange cordon line, but recognized journalists can do so nearer the scene.
Describing the new definition as objective and convenient, Tang said the Police Force trust the judgment of the Information Services Department, and it’s not up to police to decide who are journalists or not.
Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying agreed that the new rules can better protect front-line journalists. He said places where the police operate are full of hidden dangers, and the new regulation could protect inexperienced student journalists.
Leung also said the original rule had been subject to manipulation to obstruct police law enforcement when there was a low threshold for online media.
The Hong Kong Federation of Journalists also welcomed the amendment, saying it can effectively safeguard the reputation of professional reporters.
Kwok Yat-ming, vice-chairman of the federation, said he had seen senior priests and teenagers in yellow vests declaring themselves as “reporters” during last year’s anti-government protests. This had created a negative image for journalists, as well as harmed their professional reputation in society. He suggested that journalists should have professional training.
“The new amendment is not harsh at all. Every company has to register before starting a business,” he added.
HONG KONG NEWS