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IFJ supports demands for accountable institutions in Hong Kong

(IFJ/IFEX) - November 23, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), and other local media organisations in calling on the Hong Kong Government to uphold the spirit of the Hong Kong Code on Access to Information.

On November 21, the HKJA, Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club, Hong Kong Chinese Press Association and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association signed a petition to demand the release of information in real time by law enforcement officials. The campaign collected 1,602 signatures from journalists, media management, journalism professors and students.

The IFJ recognises the recent adoption by Hong Kong police of policies requested by the HKJA for the real time release of information on police matters of public interest, as per the rights to freedom of speech enshrined in Article 27 of the Hong Kong Basic Law. However, the IFJ notes that official statements are often not comprehensive enough to allow the media to effectively disseminate the information to the public.

The IFJ is also concerned by reports the Hong Kong Hospital Authority lacks a clear understanding of the code, after failing to promptly release information to the media after the amputation of a newborn baby's leg on October 13. The baby's right leg was amputated after the child developed tissue necrosis as a result of complications arising from a routine injection.

Freedom of information laws have been widely implemented in many different countries. These codes ensure all government authorities maintain international best practice with regards to accountability, transparency and fairness.

In 1995, Hong Kong's Code on Access to Information was introduced. However, according to the 2010 report of the Hong Kong Ombudsman, government bureaus and departments have displayed "considerable misunderstanding of the provisions and unfamiliarity with the procedural requirements" of the code.

In Voices of Courage, the IFJ's 2010 Press Freedom in China Report, the IFJ called on the Hong Kong Government to enact laws promoting freedom of information and public record, to better protect the public's right to information.

The IFJ urges Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang and members of Hong Kong's Legislative Council to consider the enactment of freedom of information and public record laws, to demonstrate Hong Kong's commitment to accountability, transparency and good governance.

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