The Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration has allowed Hong Kong Free Press to register as a newspaper, meaning its reporters can finally access government press conferences and press releases.
The authorities had long-forbidden digital-only media from attending government events to ask questions of officials, despite sustained pressure from local and international journalism watchdogs and criticism from the Ombudsman.
As part of HKFP’s acceptance under the Local Newspapers Ordinance, it is now required to take screenshots of its homepage every day and print them out on paper. The material must then be stamped, signed, dated and delivered by mail to the Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration.
In September, Chief Executive Carrie Lam promised a reasonable, fair and practical mechanism for including online-only outlets: “With the increasing prevalence of digital media, I believe that the government’s existing policy of imposing a blanket ban on online-only media and prohibiting them from attending its events and press conferences is behind the times,” Lam said.
She also lengthened the time of her press conferences as part of the six-month trial. However, the wording of the ordinance was not updated to take into account the fact that digital outlets do not produce a print edition.
Over the years, the government had come under fire from Amnesty International, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the International Federation of Journalists, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders over its media policy.