We the undersigned express our grave concern about steps taken by prosecutors at recent hearings in magistrates’ courts, to limit reporting of criminal proceedings by the Press.
Prosecutors have sought anonymity/gag orders in respect of witnesses who are ordinary police officers. These applications, if granted, would prohibit the publication by the Press of the identity of ordinary police witnesses, including the service number of such witnesses.
We recognize and acknowledge that the courts routinely grant anonymity/gag orders to preserve the anonymity of victims of sexual offences under Section 156 of the Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 200). These recent applications by prosecutors however do not relate to cases involving the victim of a sexual offence.
We believe these applications for anonymity/gag orders engage fundamental issues of the freedom of press guaranteed under Article 27 of the Basic Law and the right to fair and public hearings under Article 10 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights.
We also believe these steps by prosecutors to prohibit the publication of the names and service numbers of ordinary police witnesses in magistracy proceedings, is unprecedented and should be of great concern to all Hong Kong people who value press freedom, open justice, accountability and transparency.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Hong Kong Free Press
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
Independent Commentators Association
Journalism Educators for Press Freedom
Ming Pao Staff Association
Next Media Trade Union
17 October 2019