A Hong Kong Free Press reporter was denied access to view the vote count following Sunday’s Chief Executive Sub-sector Committee elections.
Editorial Director Kris Cheng arrived at the central counting station at Asia World Expo at around 12:30am early on Monday. A staff member at the media registration area said that the government’s Information Services Department had received a written enquiry from HKFP but there remained “no arrangement” for the outlet to enter as media.
She added that the government was reviewing the mechanism, but invited Cheng to enter through the public channel.
The public area is located far from the main stage, behind the media area. Members of the public cannot access officials or candidates to ask questions, nor can they enter the counting area to observe or record the counting process.
Outlets such as HKFP have long been barred from directly asking questions of officials and obtaining press releases. Multiple local and international press freedom watchdogs have condemned the policy over the years.
More outlets sign statement
Last Tuesday, the Ombudsman – an independent investigatory body which holds the authorities to account – ruled that the government’s long-standing policies were “vague” and “unfair.” It agreed with the Hong Kong Journalists Association that the industry is changing and digital outlets are outpacing traditional media sources. It also said that the industry and the public are given “no clue” about the government’s criteria for approving access.
Last Wednesday, several local digital outlets issued a statement calling upon the government to heed the Ombudsman’s recommendations and grant them the right to report. Since then, two more online news outlets have signed the statement – Asia Sentinel and Post 852.