23 May 2019
Chief Executive Carrie Lam's government has laid out stringent rules for digital media to be allowed into official press conferences and events. Photo: HKEJ
Chief Executive Carrie Lam's government has laid out stringent rules for digital media to be allowed into official press conferences and events. Photo: HKEJ

Govt rules on digital media get mixed response

The Information Services Department (ISD) said it will allow eligible online-only media outles into government press conferences and events.

The new arrangement is subject to stringent requirements, reports.

Digital media organizations must provide proof of regular online news reporting over the past three months immediately preceding the application.

There must be updates on their news platforms at least five days a week and they must be staffed by at least one editor and a reporter.

They must also be registered under the Registration of Local Newspapers Ordinance.

Newspaper Society of Hong Kong chairperson Kam Woon-ting said he is not against online-only media but is concerned that if the requirements are too lenient, the arrangement would be unfair to traditional or mass media.

Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) founder Tom Grundy described the announcement as “cautious” as the new requirements can “make it difficult” for them.

One example is that the rules require that the concerned media outlets print their “publication material” to apply for the related qualifications but HKFP has no print publication.

Should this continue, Grundy said the arrangement would be too bureaucratic.

Also, he said the ISD does not accept any advocacy publications but even the New York Times or the South China Morning Post have different opinions on different topics and that the government should not get involved in deciding what appropriate news is.

Passion Times founder Wong Yeung-tat agreed that the term “advocacy publications” can be ambiguous and might affect fairness in the registration process.

Many universities with a department of journalism have their own media reporting operations and are registered under the Local Newspaper Ordinance.

These university papers include the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Ubeat, the Hong Kong Baptist University’s Sanpoyan, and Our Voice of Hong Kong Shue Yan University.

Lee Hoi-ching, president of Our Voice, said the school intends to register as one of the ISD’s registered users of the press release system.

She hopes that the registration would aid their reporting, especially in the Legislative Council by-elections in March.

Lee said the problem is that they are a monthly publication, meaning they update only once a month, which does not fulfill the requirement of updating the platform at least five days a week.

Shue Yan’s other platform, Shuo Online, said they plan to register under the Local Newspapers Ordinance.

A Sanpoyan spokesperson welcomed the requirements and will decide whether or not they will apply for the interview rights.

Sanpoyan had earlier applied for a judicial review but the trial has been postponed since June 16. A new date has yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong In-media praised the government’s open attitude about online-only media but said some of the requirements are unnecessary.

It said the government should shed some light on the requirements and give a good explanation.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) described the arrangement as “late but still welcomed with open arms”.

It said the government should be responsible for how the online-only media and the traditional media could work efficiently under the new arrangement.

HKJA chairperson Yeung Kin-hing said that the HKJA has been fighting for online-only media to be treated on the same level as traditional media for over five years.

He said the association will dig into the details of the arrangement to ensure that all participants are treated fairly.

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