Skip to main content

Privacy and Media Intrusion
(HKLRC Report)

The Law Reform Commission released its report on Privacy and Media Intrusion on 9 December 2004. The report examines whether it is necessary to introduce additional measures to protect individuals from unwarranted invasion of privacy by the news media.

The report concludes that the voluntary self-regulatory measures introduced by the press industry and the journalistic profession have not been effective in protecting individuals from unwarranted invasion of privacy by newspapers and magazines.

The Commission therefore recommends that:

  • an independent and self-regulating Commission should be established by statute to deal with complaints of unjustifiable infringements of privacy by newspapers and magazines ("the Commission");

  • the Commission should consist of:

    1. Press Members representing the press industry and the journalistic profession, including: (i) newspaper members; (ii) at least one magazine member; (iii) journalist members; and (iv) at least one academic member; and

    2. Public Members representing the public and victims of press intrusion, including at least one retired judge;

  • the number of Press Members must not exceed that of Public Members;

  • the Press Members should be nominated by representatives of the newspaper industry, the magazine industry, the journalistic profession and the journalism teaching profession;

  • each of the newspapers having the highest readership in Hong Kong should be entitled to nominate one newspaper member, though other newspapers should also be represented;

  • journalist members should be nominated by journalists' associations, while academic members should be nominated by the academic community in the discipline of journalism;

  • the Public Members (other than the retired judge who should be nominated by the judiciary) should be nominated by professional bodies and non-governmental organisations specified in the legislation;

  • the Chief Executive must appoint those nominated to be members of the Commission unless there is any procedural impropriety in the nomination process;

  • the Commission must draw up a Press Privacy Code, which must make allowances for investigative journalism and publications that can be justified in the public interest. The Code may be drafted by the Press Members or by a Code Committee appointed by the Commission;

  • the Press Privacy Code must require newspapers and magazines (a) to take care not to publish inaccurate (including fabricated) information about an individual, and (b) where a significant inaccuracy (including fabrication) about an individual has been published, to publish a correction when requested to do so;

  • the Commission may deal with complaints about breaches of the Press Privacy Code by newspapers and magazines;

  • the Commission may initiate an investigation without complaint (or investigate a complaint made by a third party) only if the investigation can be justified on the grounds of public interest;

  • all complaints alleging breaches of the Press Privacy Code should be treated as directed against the publishers in question, not the journalists or editors concerned;

  • the Commission should not have a power to compel a journalist to give evidence and to disclosure his source of information;

  • the Commission should not have the power to:

    1. award compensation to a victim;

    2. impose a fine on an offending publisher; or

    3. order an offending publisher to make an apology;

  • the Commission may:

    1. advise, warn or reprimand an offending publisher; and

    2. require it to publish a correction or the Commission's findings and decision;

  • where an offending publisher fails to publish a correction or the findings and decision, the Commission may apply to the Court for an order requiring the publisher to take any specified action;

  • a publisher (but not the complainant) aggrieved by an adverse decision of the Commission should have the right to appeal to the Court of Appeal;

  • members of the Commission should not be personally liable for any act done by them in good faith in the exercise of the powers conferred on the Commission. However, the protection accorded to the members should not affect the liability of the Commission itself for that act;

  • the defence of qualified privilege under section 14 of the Defamation Ordinance should be extended to the publication of a fair and accurate report of the findings and decision of the Commission;

  • the Commission should be funded partially by a levy on newspapers and magazines and partially by moneys appropriated by the Legislative Council.

This report follows detailed consideration by the Commission of responses to a consultation paper issued by the LRC's Privacy sub-committee, chaired by Dr John Bacon-Shone, in 1999, and is published together with the Report on Civil Liability for Invasion of Privacy.

Press Release (PDF) (MS Word)
Executive Summary (PDF) (MS Word)
Report (PDF) (MS Word)

Important Notices