Recent press reports said the Government is studying the issuing of official press identification items (such as card, vest or helmet) to journalists reporting on public rally or protest. HKJA has conducted a survey between 20th to 23rd October to its 617 Full Members in an effort to fully consult their opinions on “government press accreditation.” We received a total of 254 valid questionnaires. Results show that an overwhelming 96% disagree with the issuing of official press identification item/s by the Government. Their major concern is that allowing the government to decide who journalists goes against the principle of press freedom and may set a precedent for government’s further tightening of media control. (Fig. 1)
Of those who disagree, nearly 97% say their main concern is that it will set a precedent for further tightening of media control. About 95% believe that allowing the government to decide who journalists goes against the principle of press freedom. 82% fear media credibility will drop because the public may worry journalists would compromise in order to get official identification. Another 50% of those surveyed expressed their concern that protesters may see journalists with official identification as government media, thus putting their safety at risk. (Fig. 2)
Respondents are also concerned that the government would be selective in issuing official identification item/s. Freelance journalists will be adversely affected. Journalists from small-size media organisations or do not belong to any organisations may also not be able to get official identification.
As for those who stated they would accept official identification items, they did so for a number of reasons: they believed that such arrangements could reduce the number of journalists at the scene, which would improve the order at the scene of the protests. Secondly, some also believe that official identification items would make it easier for the police to identify journalists, thereby reducing the risk of journalists being interfered with force by the police thereby enhancing personal safety. (Fig. 3)
For those who disagree with the idea of government issuing official identification item/s, 43% say they “will not” use those item/s if they Government goes ahead. 24% say they will follow the instruction from their employers. 26% remain undecided. Only 6% say that they “will” use the items. (Fig. 4)
HKJA believes the survey shows the majority of journalists do not accept the idea of government press identification mechanism. They also concerned that any similar mechanisms could easily be abused as tools to intercept and drive away journalists. HKJA reiterates that any mechanism related to “press accreditation by the government” will unavoidably damage freedom of the press and the public’s right to know. The media sector is in general opposed to similar measures.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
25 October 2019