Mr. Wong Wai Lun, Michael
Director of Information Services Department
The Financial Services Development Council submitted six research reports to the Government yesterday. These reports were highly technical, detailed and, all together, came to about 100 pages. Copies were handed out to reporters only when they filed into the briefing room.
The incredible thing was that proceedings began with a 10-minute stand-up interview at which both video and audio-recording was permitted. Then the reporters were handed the 100-page report as they were being ushered into the briefing room. Five minutes later the council gave a briefing. No video or audio-recording of this so-called press conference was allowed, though officials could be quoted by name.
It boggles the imagination to believe that any reporter could read and digest the data contained in these reports – and ask sensible questions to boot – while listening to Mrs Cha’s briefing at the same time.
Just what the thinking was behind these arrangements is simply beyond us. They smack of minds that simply have no understanding of what they are up to, nor any inkling of what they hope to achieve. Surely the very idea of presenting these reports to the general public is to ensure that the community supports the very aims that the council hopes to achieve through the studies they had commissioned.
Rather then treating the media and the journalists as partners in such an endeavour, the council has given the impression that the media and its practitioners are barely tolerable inhabitants of this planet. Why then hold any briefing at all?
Can it be that the council needs the public on its side but is deeply concerned that some of the findings contained in these reports may not stand up to proper and legitimate public scrutiny? Hence the short shrift given to the reporters and the adamant refusal to allow anything to be recorded on video or audio, in addition to the brevity of the interview.
The entire incident suggests that the council has much to hide and, therefore, scrutiny by the media is unwelcome.
Such incidents do not augur well for press freedom nor the public’s right to know. They are likely to spur more intensive questioning by press and public about what organisations like the Financial Services Development Council are up to.
ISD whose mandate it is to ensure the administration is presented to the general public in a favourable light needs to look into the arrangements for the media in this particular instance and ensure that such ludicrous treatment of the media does not happen again.
It is not just a matter of the public’s right to know that is at stake, but the credibility of the Financial Services Development Council in particular and of the government in general that hang in the balance.
Hong Kong Journalists Association