Outrage flared when it became public knowledge that crimes like the serial knife attacks in Tseung Kwan O and indecent serial assaults in Kwun Tong were withheld by the police. As a result the number of “Incident”, giving notification of crimes or spot news information that editors may be interested in, have surged by dozens of times more. Naturally, the telephone lines to the Police Public Relations Branch (PPRB) are on overload as reporters ring all day for details of each and every case. Few reporters have become so frustrated at not getting through that they even hanker for those ‘good old days’ when they were getting only a dozen “Incident” each day!
The root of this problem, of course, is the screening of crime information before these notes are dispatched to the media.
If the police had accepted the proposal of your union and sent out case information to media outlets simultaneously after the deletion of personal data, reporters would not need to call PPRB because then they would be looking at their computer screens directly connected to the police system in some way. Then there would not be any traffic jam on telephone line.
Regrettably, the police insisted on pre-screening information before releasing them. As a result, news workers have to wait for the information filtered by police using guidelines that nobody else knows about. We are still in the dark over how much information of public interest is withheld. While receiving the information dispatched by the police, the information is usually too sketchy for informed news judgement to be made, necessitating calls to PPRB for details and clarification. Hence the jamming up of the PPRB line.
This has become a vicious circle.
If the police refrain from gatekeeping information and act as your union suggested, we need not experience the frustration of trying to get through to PPRB for further details. The police, too, would be saving themselves time, effort and manpower handling our calls. Is this the best way to satisfy all and demonstrate “open government” at the same time?
I, therefore, urge you to sign the signature campaign NOW to call for the police sending out information out simultaneously after the deletion of personal data of caller and persons involved.
Mak Yin Ting
11st November, 2011