Five online media outlets – Stand News, InMediaHK, MemeHK, Hong Kong Free Press and Initium Media – released a joint statement on Friday calling for the government to allow online and student press, as well as civilian journalists, to report on government events and press conferences.
Digital and student media, as well as citizen journalists, are currently barred from attending government events and press conferences, and do not receive notices and press releases, said the statement.
“To use ‘internet media’ as a separation for how different media are treated is backward; furthermore, press freedom and the right to report does not belong to any media, but to every civilian,” it said. It also added that it is now the mainstream for citizens to receive news online.
The statement urged the government to examine new definitions of media. It cited Taiwan, which has amended its rules to allow any media registered as businesses to report in its Legislative Yuan. This contrasts with Hong Kong, where online media are only given temporary passes to report in the Legislative Council.
“[The] development of a vibrant online media environment can uphold Hong Kong citizens’ right to information and freedom of expression. Both print and online media must be treated equally,” Chung Pui-kuen, chief editor of Stand News told HKFP.
Oiwan Lam of InMedia told HKFP: “Digital media should be treated like conventional media as they are also playing the role of watchdog and informing citizens of government decisions, policy and important discussions. It is ridiculous for the government to be excluding a blooming sector of the press and such [an] arrangement is against the freedom of press and information.”
Tsang Tak-sing, then Secretary for Home Affairs, refused to recognise online media on January 22, 2014 because “any person can set up an online media website.”
Online media were denied entry to the media centre on the day of the New Territories East by-elections on February 28, Government staff members said that “only invited media could report [on vote counting]” at the media centre located in Tiu Keng Leng Sports Centre. The Hong Kong Journalist Association has called the ban “ridiculous.”