HKJA expresses utmost concern over the current debate in Legislative Council on amending the Rules of Procedure of the Council, particularly in respect of Rule 88 which was invoked in November.
According to Rule 88(1), at a meeting of the Council, a committee of the whole Council, a committee or a subcommittee, a LegCo member may without notice at any time rise and move that members of the press and the public withdraw from the House. Thus Rule 88(2) empowers the President or Chairman, at any time, to order members of the press and of the public to leave the House.
HKJA is of the view that Legco sittings are of major public interest, and barring media and public from any sitting seriously undermines Press Freedom as well as the Public’s right to know. It will seriously breach one of the basic tenets of our community, i.e. the right to know what is being considered in their name.
The proposal before the House vests power to clear the chamber of press and public in the hands of the President, the Chairman of a committee of the whole Council or the chairman of a committee or subcommittee.
HKJA believes that such an amendment fails to address the worries and concerns of the media about the threat of Rule 88 to press freedom and the public’s right to know.
HKJA urges Legco:
1. To consider abolishing Rule 88 of the LegCo’s Rules of Procedure.
2. To clearly specify the conditions under which Rule 88 (i) would become applicable. HKJA also proposes that Rule 88(i) should not be invoked unless extremely significant public interests are involved, and that Article 88(2) should be deleted. HKJA regards it as highly improper for the LegCo President or chairman to be empowered as to be free to order members of the media and of public to leave the Chamber.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
6 December 201