Journalism teachers across tertiary education have expressed disappointment at the government’s denial of access to student reporters wishing to attend official events, as well as their subsequent refusal to meet with the group to discuss the matter.
In an open letter published last Wednesday, the Journalism Educators for Press Freedom said that they wrote to Director of Information Services Patrick Nip on March 25 requesting a meeting with him and his colleagues.
“In the course of carrying out their reporting duties, our students regularly encounter difficulties gaining access to official news conferences and events and to facilities set up for the news media,” the letter said. “This seriously affects their ability both to gain valuable practical reporting experience and to report on the news for their publications.”
However, the Director of Information Services replied on April 19 saying that “We are unable to accede to your request for granting access to student reporters to Government press conferences or media events.” It also ignored the request for a meeting.
In response, the Journalism Educators for Press Freedom said last Wednesday, “Instead of engaging in a discussion as requested, you flat-out reject the granting of access to student reporters on the grounds of ‘the overall situation, including the capacity constraints, security requirements and on-site order'”.
The letter questioned why some media organisations, despite being registered, were not granted access, and said that some student-produced publications are in fact registered news periodicals.
It urged the government to disclose the criteria it uses to decide which registered publications are allowed access, and which are not, noting that the government said that it “fully respects press freedom in Hong Kong and adheres to the principles of openness and transparency”.
Yuen Chan, one of the signatories to the letter, told HKFP on Monday: “We decided to make this correspondence open because [the government] refused to engage in dialogue… We’ll continue to reveal what happens and keep in touch with the students.” She also said that the government’s move limited the avenues and channels for students to receive the training they need to become professional journalists.
The open letter was signed by members of the group, including teachers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong School of Journalism & Communication, the Hong Kong Baptist University Department of Journalism, and the Department of Journalism & Communication at Chu Hai College.