March 16, 2017
Dear Mr Tsang
Twelve journalists union and media groups urge you to write to Electoral Affairs Commission or any relevant department(s) to indicate your intent to include online-only media in all of your press events including those held in the media area on the election day and to demand the authorities' facilitation of your intent. This will allow those media a full access to all press events and facilities.
This is our urgent appeal for your prompt action to include professional online-only media in the press activities organized by the Government in relation to the election of the Chief Executive on 26 March 2017.
Under the existing policy, the online media is excluded from all official functions and denied entry to locations where elections will be held. Not only does the present arrangement deviate from the government's guarantee of a fair and open election, it is also against your pledge of upholding press freedom.
In this regard, we would also stress that the Ombudsman had concluded in her December 6 finding that the Government has offered no convincing justification for its ban on online-only media from its press events. The Government is obliged to facilitate press access as part of the protection of press freedom promised in the Basic Law. Yet, the Ombudsman’s call for the lifting of the ban has yielded no result. Nor has there been any move towards accreditation of online media. In fact, there has been no discussion, whatever, with the industry in this regard.
With less than ten days to go before the Election, the Information Services Department has provided no accreditation channel for the online-only media. Letters and emails sent by these media seeking registration for the election day press activities remain unanswered.
Given the significance of the Chief Executive election, such continued inaction is not only regrettable but also unreasonable. The press area, which will be located in the Hong Kong Convention Centre, should be spacious enough to include those journalists. Professional unions have already proposed different ways of accrediting journalists that are widely adopted by various authorities overseas.
We sincerely hope that you will fight for the accreditation of online journalists on the election day in the interest of the public. Your swift action on this will demonstrate a commitment to upholding press freedom and other core values of Hong Kong. Ignoring what has become an integral part of life worldwide is not in anyone's interests, least of all the younger generation to whom the online medium is their sole access to the wider world.
Looking forward to your favourable reply, we remain,
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
Independent Commentators Association
Next Media Trade Union
Ming Pao Staff Association
RTHK Programme Staff Union
Hong Kong Free Press