A total of 1602 journalists, professors and journalism students as well as three media-related organisations have joined HKJA’s signature campaign strongly demanding that the Police and the Fire Services Department publicise information on crimes to the media in real-time, without any pre-selection, after deleting the personal data of the people involved.
The scale of participation in this signature campaign breaks all records in HKJA history. Those joining include the Foreign Correspondents Club, Hong Kong Chinese Press Association, Hong Kong Press Photographers Association and reporters from the General News Desks, Financial News Desks, Spot News Desks, Photographers, Editors, administrators of news organizations. It reflects the great dissatisfaction with the way law-enforcement agencies release information on crimes and those seeking police assistance. The Police Department and the Fire Services Department must face up to this and make prompt rectifications.
After media exposed the Police Department’s failure to release information affecting public safety, there was a significant rise in the number of criminal cases released to the media. We saw that the daily average of cases released by the Police to the media rose from 2.7 to around 200 daily. This may have been in partial response to the public’s demand but it does not get to the core issue: Why are the police not releasing information without any vetting? The vetting principles are kept in the dark. We are concerned that some important information in the public interest may be hidden from the public or simply ‘omitted’.
We are concerned that if the law-enforcement agencies do not act in accordance with the fair principle that HKJA has demanded, this increase in crime information released will merely be an expediency of the moment. This leaves open the likelihood of changes following subsequent personnel changes in the force. This will harm the public’s right to information.
We urge the law-enforcement agencies to adhere to the principle of transparent governance, to release real-time crime information to the media without prior screening except for the deletion of personal information of informants and other involved persons to ensure that the right to know and freedom of information of the people will remain intact.
The statement and the signatories of this joint signature campaign of “Protect People’s Right to Information, Publicise Crime News in Real-time” will be published in two newspapers on November 21.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
20 November 2011