Secretary for Justice accepts Injunction must not restrict freedom of the press and media

The High Court will on July 21 hear an injunction application by the government (Case no. HCA855/2023) against the song “Glory to Hong Kong”. Following objections from the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), including that the injunction failed to provide protection for journalists and the media, the Department of Justice (“DoJ”) informed the Court that it agreed to an HKJA proposal to include an express exemption for journalistic activity (“the Proviso”) if its injunction application is to be granted.

The Proviso will exempt from prohibition and civil proceedings any journalistic activity in relation to the Song in news reporting and in publications which make observations about it in news and current affairs in or outside Hong Kong.

The HKJA welcomes the Government’s agreement to the proposed Proviso. This provides protection for the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech in clear terms, both of which are guaranteed constitutional rights in Hong Kong. Relying on the Government’s promise to include the Proviso in the injunction should it succeed, the HKJA has decided to hold off making its own application to the Court pending the outcome of the case.

The HKJA understands that the Proviso protects journalists from civil liability in clear and unequivocal terms when they report, refer to and make observations about the Song and its various elements in the course of news gathering, interviews and in commentaries. It also covers any publication of articles, programmes, or posts or tweets, etc on online platforms done for news or current affairs purposes, as well as related journalistic activities done inside or outside Hong Kong. Logically, previously published news, interviews and current affairs articles involving the Song should also be similarly protected.

The HKJA stresses that it has no intention to publish or broadcast the Song, nor to commit any act of sedition, secession or to insult the National Anthem.

The Proviso as agreed by the DoJ to be proposed to the Court reads:

“This Order does not prohibit any lawful act(s) which are done in or outside Hong Kong for the purpose of news activity which means any journalistic activity and includes:

(a) The –

(i) gathering of news;
(ii) preparation or compiling of articles, programmes or other publications concerning news; or
(iii) observations on news or current affairs, for the purpose of dissemination to the public; or

(b) The dissemination to the public of –

(i) any article or programme or other publication of or concerning news; or
(ii) observations on news or current affairs.”

Hong Kong Journalists Association
18 July 2023

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