FEARS that press freedom is in jeopardy were raised after it was disclosed that law enforcers had spied on journalists on seven occasions last year. The figure is a decade high as no more than two journalists were spied on each year from 2006.
The data on the interceptions by law enforcement agencies was made public in an annual report by the Commissioner on Interception of Communications and Surveillance (截取通訊及監察事務專員), an independent oversight body tasked with ensuring government agencies act in accordance with their legal responsibilities when intercepting communications.
Veteran journalist Mak Yin-ting (麥燕庭) called the “sudden spike” in news-related tapping “obviously problematic” and “disturbing”. She added, “It will have a chilling effect on informants wanting to anonymously tip off journalists.”
Mak, former chairwoman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (香港記者協會), said the “sharp climb” in figures showed authorities’ insensitivity toward news materials. “Maintaining confidentiality is vital in convincing informants that their comments are in safe hands,” Mak said. “It is an alarming sign and shows the authorities do not respect press freedom.”
She also slammed the report for “outrageously lacking transparency”, as the commissioner did not disclose details on the seven cases. “The commissioner’s opacity would only cause investigators to connive in recklessly tapping,” Mak said. “His job is not just to tell us the numbers, but what exactly happened.”
(This article is published on Junior Standard on 07 December 2017)
CICS 2016 annual report summary
2017 World Press Freedom Index