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Government Promises Press Conference When Announcing Major Policy


After the Hong Kong Journalists Association had voiced the grievances of reporters about the misuse of “off the record” briefings, the situation has improved a little. However, the situation is far from satisfactory. The HKJA, therefore, met with senior officers of the Information Services Department (ISD) on Monday (August 9th, 2010) to discuss how dissemination of government policies could be improved.

The HKJA stressed that all government policies should be announced at press conferences first. After a press conference is held, it is up to the government to decide if it wants to supplement information in the way the government thinks appropriate. The Director of the ISD, Mr. Michael Wong stated that there was no policy to replace press conferences with “off the record briefings”. He agreed that major policies should be announced at a press conference first. Regarding the potential differences in comprehension of major policies, Wong suggested that it could be narrowed down through interaction between media and government officials.

The Chairperson of the HKJA, Ms Mak Yin-ting reiterated the position that all policies should be announced at press conferences first. In this way the government could be seen to be honouring its pledge to remain a transparent and open government. Also, it would help to eliminate any chance that an official might play with words of ‘major’ to evade the responsibility of announcing a policy in an on record press conference. She suggested that the government should take the line that ‘all policies should be announced in press conference first and “off the record briefings” may only pre-empt a press conference in extreme circumstances.

No promise was secured in this regard. Mr. Wong reiterated that the problem could be resolved through practice. He further said that officials had taken note of media’s concern and they had also noticed individual reporters had queried the way briefings were being held after the issue of “off the record” briefings was publicised in ‘The Journalist’. Individual officials had responded to the requests raised and this demonstrated the responsiveness of government officials to the ethos of the society.

The HKJA will monitor the developments in this regard and call on journalists to inform HKJA of any “off the record” briefings. Reporters may even ask officials to disseminate information in a responsible manner.

In addition, HKJA also conveyed the concern of the fellow reporters about the dissemination of some important news close to deadline and the late arrival of media invitations. Representatives of ISD emphasized that it is their practice to release information as soon as possible. However, they have to follow procedures when disseminating information. Once these are cleared information would be released immediately.

Also at the meeting from JA were Hon. Secretary, Phyllis Tsang, the Executive Committee members Shirley Yam and Maisy Lo, and the General Secretary Chong Hiu-yeung. The ISD was also represented by the Deputy Directors Mrs. Juliana Chen and Mr. Tse Cheung-hing, Assistant Directors Mr. Tam S.Y., Mrs Pauline Ling and Mr. Matthew Leung.

 

 

10/08/2010 03:39   updated more
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