Hong Kong Journalists Association expresses grave disappointment and regret that the Court of First Instance has granted the University of Hong Kong an injunction that permanently restrains the content of its September 2015 council meeting on the appointment of a Vice-Chancellor from going public. The court’s decision will set a precedent which HKJA believes will further undermine press freedom.
HKJA takes the view that it has always been and remains the duty of every journalist and media institution to publish confidential information to expose injustice and corruption as it is done in public interest.
HKJA took the initiative last year to join the litigation to defend both the right of the public to access information and press freedom. The court granted a permission for HKJA to take part in the trial and to make its submission. The counsel representing HKJA addressed to the court that any restriction on press freedom could be imposed only if there was an absolute necessity and the restriction must be proportional to the purpose sought to be achieved. The university’s objective to ensure free discussion in the council and to protect the function of the council could hardly justify a “wide and draconian” injunction. As a publicly-funded institution, HKU should be under the monitor of the public and the media.
HKJA maintains the appointment issue gave rise to the concern about the political interference with the university whereas the university is not a commercial entity but a public body. The press, therefore, had the right to provide information about the council’s deliberation. HKU should not treat its council’s discussion as a confidential agreement.
Gill Phillips, director of editorial legal services at British newspaper The Guardian, had earlier said it was the world’s first case for a higher education institution to resort to a court injunction to prevent the leaking of the content of its council’s meeting.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
8 July 2016