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Hong Kong Chief Executive threatens newspaper with legal action

(HKJA/IFEX) - The Hong Kong Journalists Association regrets that Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying has threatened legal action against the Hong Kong Economic Journal in a letter issued through his solicitors over a column published in January 2013.

HKJA appreciates that everyone is entitled to defend himself against infringement of his rights, not least against defamation. However, an official, especially a principal official of the government, should exercise such rights with extreme caution. It is inappropriate for Mr. Leung to jump in with threats of legal action before even responding to the commentary so as to allow for a rational discussion of the issues. Although Mr. Leung sent out the letter in his own capacity, it is impossible to distinguish between his public duty and his private persona. We, therefore, demand that Mr. Leung withdraw the threatening letter.

Mr. Leung has meanwhile refused to respond publicly to the allegations of Mr. Lew Mon Hung. Instead, he has selectively chosen a few media outlets to rebut the allegations without providing any substantiation. Instead, Mr. Leung has resorted to legal action against a media outlet. The public is left to wonder if Mr. Leung is putting the blame on the media, which would have a chilling effect on press freedom.

The problematic trend raised in the commentary is a serious concern for the whole society. The HKJA strongly urges the Chief Executive to clarify, with facts, whether Mr. Lew's accusations of wrongdoing are true or false, in an open and comprehensive manner. Public concerns cannot be cleared by the Chief Executive making empty denials through selective media outlets.

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