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Hong Kong government continues discrimination against online media

In the lead up to Legislative Council elections in Hong Kong, supporters of candidate Edward Leung take part in an election rally, 28 February 2016
In the lead up to Legislative Council elections in Hong Kong, supporters of candidate Edward Leung take part in an election rally, 28 February 2016

AP Photo/Vincent Yu

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 3 March 2016.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), in strongly opposing the Government of Hong Kong's continuous discrimination against online media and student newspapers. The IFJ urges the Hong Kong government to recognize online and student media as legitimate media outlets.

On 28 February 2016, the constituency by-election for the Hong Kong Legislative Council New Territories East was held in the Tiu Keng Leng Sports Centre. A number of online media outlets including Stand News, InMedia, Initium Media, Kinliu as well as a number of student newspapers were barred entry to the center as the government does not recognize them as traditional media.

This is not the first instance of media being barred from official or government events. The IFJ and the HKJA have strongly criticized the government's position on new media, with the government arguing that such a change in position and policy would open the floodgates, allowing any media to participate in formal government events. In the past, not a single online media outlet was allowed to participate in any official government events, press conference with the Chief Executive, nor are they able to apply for an official press accreditation card to the Legislative Council. On 13 January, online media was not allowed to participate in the press conference of Policy Address.

Initium Media
, one of Hong Kong's key online media outlets, said they understood the difficulty of the local government but they also said: "This is an opportunity to discuss this issue instead of using an evasive attitude towards it."

The HKJA said: "Discriminating against online media not only violates from the principle of press freedom but also heads towards the opposite of new technology development policy."

The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: "The current government policy is a blatant restriction on press freedom. As journalism and media develops and evolves so to must government policy. The Hong Kong government must adapt the policy to ensure online and student media is not barred for official events."

We urge Leung Chun-Ying, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, and the Government Executive Council to change the outdated policy immediately.

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