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LCQ20: Police facilitates news reporting

    Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question raised by the Hon Emily Lau in the Legislative Council today (June 4):


    Regarding the Police's handling of matters relating to the news covering activities of the media, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) given that the Police deployed in 2005 40 police officers to take up the new posts of Media Liaison Officer to assist the media in their news covering activities, whether the authorities have assessed if the expected effectiveness of these posts has been achieved; if so, of the details;

(b) whether there are guidelines in the Force Procedures Manual specifying how frontline police officers should handle matters relating to the news covering activities of the media; if so, of the details, and whether any police officers were subject to disciplinary actions for breaching the relevant guidelines in the past five years; if so, of the details of the cases concerned;

(c) of the number of complaints received by the Police in the past two years about police officers obstructing the news covering activities of reporters and hence hampering press freedom; the details of such complaints and the improvement measures adopted by the Police; and

(d) whether the Police had provided information to individual media organisations selectively in the past five years; if so, of the reasons for that?

Reply :

Madam President,

(a) During the sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation in 2005, the Police deployed 39 police officers and seven Information Officers to act as "Media Liaison Officers", with the responsibility for assisting the media in reporting on police operations. The Police reviewed the arrangement after the Conference, and concluded that it was effective in building bridges between the Police and the media. Therefore, they recommended that the same arrangement should be considered in future major operations.

    The Police thus deployed seven police officers and seven Information Officers to act as "Media Liaison Officers" during the Olympic Torch Relay on May 2, 2008. These officers assisted the media in news reporting at major locations along the route of the torch relay, and offered advice, as necessary, to Police Commanders at the scene on matters concerning arrangements for news reporting by the media. The Police considered that once again the arrangement demonstrated the effective role of "Media Liaison Officers".

(b) The Force Procedures Manual contains detailed guidelines on how the Police are to deal with matters concerning news reporting by the media.  The Manual provides clearly that the Police should maintain cordial relations with the news media based on mutual respect and understanding, and provide timely and accurate information to journalists within the bounds of the law. The Manual also provides guidelines on how to facilitate the media in filming, photo-taking and reporting. The guidelines in the Force Procedures Manual seek to assist frontline police officers in striking an appropriate balance between conducting investigations and facilitating news reporting by the media.

    The Force Procedures Manual further provides that Force Commanders should communicate and liaise closely with the Police Public Relations Branch, so that the latter may provide assistance as appropriate, for example, in co-ordinating the arrangements for news reporting by journalists during police operations, or disseminating information to the media where police operations will not be prejudiced. Police Commanders may also consult the Police Public Relations Branch on press area arrangements, with a view to facilitating the media in filming and news reporting.

    According to the record of the Hong Kong Police Force, in 2003 to 2007, no police officer was subject to disciplinary action for breaching the guidelines in the Force Procedures Manual concerning arrangements for news reporting by the media.

(c) According to the record of the Complaints Against Police Office, it did not receive any complaint in 2006 and 2007 about police officers obstructing reporters in news reporting, thus undermining press freedom. In 2008, the Police have (up to May 30) received one complaint involving allegations of unfair treatment of journalists by police officers. The Police are investigating into the case.

(d) The Force Procedures Manual stipulates that all news media and journalists should be given equal treatment when the Police disseminate information and arrange media coverage. Through training courses, the Police have specifically reminded police officers of the guidelines on equal treatment to all news media and journalists. The Police also regularly remind all Police Formations of the need for strict compliance with the relevant guidelines.

Ends/Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Issued at HKT 17:21


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