Chief executive candidate Woo Kwok-hing has criticised the government’s refusal to allow digital media outlets access to report on Sunday’s small-circle election as a relic of the “last century.”
On Friday afternoon, the High Court refused an interim injunction from the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) requesting that the authorities lift the ban in time for the election in Wan Chai on Sunday.
Digital media outlets will therefore be unable to report from the media area of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where the election will be held. International and local newspapers, news wires and TV and radio broadcasters will be allowed in.
Woo has promised to take questions from digital media reporters in the public area of the centre.
Mindset from the ‘last century’
“The chief executive elections is an event for both Chinese and international media,” wrote Woo in a Saturday Facebook post. “The mindset of the government’s Information Services Department remains in the last century.”
“I officially request the government to open up the media zone, to allow digital media to provide the latest information,” he wrote.
“Tomorrow [Sunday], I will actively go to the public area, to accept interviews from digital media, and to support their right to report.”
Currently, digital media outlets, including Hong Kong Free Press, are barred from accessing government press releases and press conferences, and are unable to ask questions of officials.
Public vs. media area
Microphone stands will be set up inside the media area for candidates and electors to answer reporters’ questions, though no such facility exists in the public area.
Furthermore, the public area is only open at 10am, whilst the media area opens at 7am. Election proceedings begin at 9am.
Journalists denied entry to the media area are therefore denied equal reporting opportunities and are unable to use facilities such as wifi, shared media feeds and power sockets. They will also have to compete with members of the public to gain access to the public area with limited seating.
While the High Court refused to grant the HKJA an interim injunction on Friday, it agreed to hear the watchdog’s judicial review over the constitutionality of the ban at a later date.
Ahead of Sunday’s small-circle election, the other two candidates John Tsang and Carrie Lam have also asked the government to allow reporting access for digital media outlets.