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Media protest Hong Kong decree limiting access to information

(HKJA/IFEX) - 27 January 2013 - A record-breaking number of journalists, journalism educators and professional bodies have signed a petition calling on the government to withdraw a new legislation that will limit the public's right to access information.

The new Companies Ordinance will hide the residential addresses and identity card numbers of company directors currently available in the Companies Registry from the public.

The signatories include 1,768 journalists, educators and students of journalism schools as well as seven professional organisations. The number exceeds the record of any previous industry-wide petition.

Ms Mak Yin-ting, chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association which organized the petition, said: "The fact that a record-breaking number of signatures can be collected within a week indicates how serious the issue is."

Among the signatories are journalists from newspapers of different political stances and territories including Taiwan and Macau. There are not just frontline journalists but also publishers, chief editors and sub-editors. This illustrates broad support for maintaining open access to information from the Companies Registry, Ms Mak added. The petition is co-organized by the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association and Journalism Educators for Press Freedom.

Public record at the Companies Registry has facilitated the exposure of major political and financial scandals by the media. At the same time, the Commissioner for Privacy has confirmed that the current law does not infringe on privacy.

A withdrawal of the relevant regulation would allow the rest of the amended Companies Ordinance to be implemented on time and uphold the public's right to access information. This would be a win-win situation, noted the associations.

The new ordinance was endorsed by the Legislative Council last year. The associations, however, called this a result of inadequate consultation and discussion. It noted that various interested parties were not aware of the new law until it was made public by the media early this month. Many have publicly expressed fears that their rights and interests would be hurt by the move.

The petition together with the signatories' names will be published on Monday January 28 in Apple Daily, am730, Hong Kong Economic Times, Ming Pao and the South China Morning Post.

Hong Kong Journalists Association
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
Journalism Educators for Press Freedom

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