In September, we were kept busy with the Ching Cheong case and the Easy Finderincident. In addition the report on pubic service broadcasting was recently released. Although the report concluded that the public service broadcaster should be detached from the government structure, we think some of the suggestions require more discussion. The Press Freedom Subcommittee is preparing a submission and we would upload it to our website as soon as possible.
In the Ching Cheong case, Mrs. Ching lodged an appeal through the legal representative. She is now awaiting the result. During this period before the outcome is announced, our main concern was whether the Court’s judgement would be based on the written appeal without a hearing in the court and without listening to the defence in person. Though this way of handling the appeal case is in keeping with practice it is really hard for us to accept. Earlier the JA sent letters to three different special task groups in the United Nations. We expressed our concern about the Ching Cheong case and the recent imposition of more obstacles to press freedom contained in the amendments on Measures for Administering the Release of News and Information in China by Foreign News Agencies by Xinhua News Agency.
In the Easy Finder incident, I attended a meeting of the Legislative Council’s Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting and expressed my concern. Later on I was invited to attend another forum in Shue Yan College regarding Laws and Privacy. However, it is worth noting that both Mrs Carrie Lam, Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, and Mr Gilbert Mo, Deputy Law Draftsman, mentioned that there were difficulties in drafting the new law. On the other hand, Mr. Joseph Wong, Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, said that there would be amendments to the related legislation. We should focus on the amendment because it is much easier than drafting a new law. It is easy and quick in procedure, and it can create the same destructive effect.
There have been new developments in the incident involving 750 people in the Philippines, including some journalists. According to the local journalists’ association in Philippines, the husband of President Arroyo has sued a total of 42 journalists for a huge sum of money. We are deeply concerned as this is the usual trick to obstruct press freedom. Moreover, a priest, who was dedicated to helping poor people and who kept on questioning the validity of the presidency, was stabbed to death in his home. The police said the murder was committed by robbers but local people and the church question the result of the investigations. The priest had received numerous death threats but was never given any protection by the police. He helped so many of the poor that he was left penniless and lived a very simple life.
Another development related to the foreign media. The Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his minister mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, sued The Far Eastern Economic Review, a US-based Dow Jones & Company owned publication, for defamation. The Singapore Government followed up by announcing a ban on the sale and distribution of the journal in Singapore. This act aroused huge concerns in the media industry, with many worrying if the Singapore government was trying to manipulate the foreign media.
Regarding the membership welfare, the new journalist workshops will be held during weekends in November. In addition to the usual workshops on political news, court news, and financial news, there will be the additions of media law, ethics and labour law. We hope all of you can spare your time and attend these refresher courses. We will invite veteran journalists to speak on these issues. In addition we shall also be having lecturers from Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University and our legal advisor. Also experienced Legislator Hon LEE Cheuk-yan will help us. Keep yourself posted through forthcoming notices.
Recently, we started to visit different universities to introduce our Association to the journalism students, in order to recruit more members. Later we will start visiting different media organizations. It would be great if any of you can provide us a suitable contact person for arranging a meeting.
It is the time for the annual HKJA Football Cup! All players please pay take note of the match schedule. Although JA Cup is very competitive, we think friendship and safety are the more important issues in the JA Cup.
Lastly, a news that made us sad, one traffic accident at the end of September took away a journalist’s life. Mr. Leung Ka Shun, a journalist newly recruited by Oriental Daily, was killed in the accident when he was working in a part time job. Any member who wishes to make a donation to his family can send a cheque to the HKJA and we will pass it to his family. (Cheque please made payable to 陳愛蘭, Leung’s mother) We will keep members posted on the time and place of the funeral.
Press freedom is the cornerstone of a free functioning media and we are all responsible to defend this core value as a member of the media industry.