HKJA’s view on CE’s REMARKS THAT “journalists have no privilege”

“I don’t see why journalists need to have the privilege. Things that can’t be seen by others need to be seen by journalists? This is what privilege is about. No one in Hong Kong has privilege.”

“I have emphasized that I do not see why journalists should hold special rights,” Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam said today (30 March) at a media session before the Executive Council meeting. HKJA believes that the CE’s remark is extremely misleading. We reiterate that journalists have never asked for privileges. Journalists conduct investigations and reports to disclose abuses and injustices in order to protect the public interest. Registry search is a long-standing method of verification in investigative journalism. HKJA reminds Mrs. Lam to bear in mind the “Press Freedom Charter” signed by her four years ago. By signing the Charter, she pledged to defend press freedom and actively promote the formulation of a freedom of information law. We hope that the Chief Executive will not take the initiative to tighten press freedom and freedom of information without fulfilling her previous promises.

The media’s Fourth Power to monitor the society is protected by the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, and the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance. The Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance further stipulates that news activities can be exempted from the Data Protection Principle concerning the use, access and correction of personal data under certain circumstances. More importantly, there were many reports involving major public interest in the past, such as the misconduct of Fung Wing Yip, former Deputy Secretary at the Economic Development and Labour Bureau (EDLB) during his office, the illegal structures controversy of the Secretary for Justice Ms Teresa Cheng, and the Financial Secretary Paul Chan’s subdivided flats scandal, development land scandal and the transfer of assets before assuming the post of Financial Secretary, were all revealed by the media through vehicle registration searches and registries searches.

CE also pointed out this morning that it is necessary to prevent “doxxing”, publish fake news and hate speech on the Internet, and to prevent personal data from being “weaponized”. HKJA reiterates that the government has never provided any evidence that journalists are involved in the above-mentioned misconduct; journalists who are performing their fourth power loyally, need to verify the information they gathered before publication, various registry searches and inspection of public documents are important methods for verification, and it also proves that journalists are responsible and reliable, and who respect the truth.

Hong Kong Journalists Association

30 March 2021


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