In August 1999, the Law Reform Commission published two consultation papers entitled Civil Liability for Invasion of Privacy and the Regulation of Media Intrusion. Among others, the Commission has proposed the setting up of statutory body to handle media intrusion of privacy. While taking note of the concern in the society over the problem of privacy intrusion, the newspaper sector has stepped up efforts to address those concerns and to enhance professional standards.
Initiated by the Hong Kong Newspapers' Society, a group of newspaper professionals and community figures have held meetings since November 1999 to discuss the idea of a self-regulatory body on media intrusion of privacy. After months of consultation and discussion, 11 newspapers and two journalists' associations, namely the Hong Kong News Executives' Association and the Hong Kong Federation of Journalists have decided to form the Hong Kong Press Council. A preparatory committee for the setting up of the Council was set up in March 2000. Mr Lee Cho-jat was elected as committee chairman.
The preparatory committee has since then actively invited representatives of newspapers and community figures to join the Council, raise funds, draft constitution and rules of work procedures in handling complaints and necessary by-laws. The Council was incorporated in accordance with Hong Kong law on June 23, 2000. The Council held its inaugural meeting on July 25, 2000 to elect its chairman, vice-chairmen and executive committee. The executive committee has adopted the Journalists' Code of Professional Ethics, which was jointly drafted and promulgated in June 2000 by four major journalist bodies as a code of ethics and guidelines for local journalists in carrying out their professional duties. They are the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Hong Kong Federation of Journalists, the Hong Kong News Executives' Association and the Hong Kong Press Photographers' Association.
Beginning from September 1, 2000, the Council received and handled public complaints in accordance with its constitution and rules of procedures.
The Council's work objectives are to:
- Enhance professional ethnical standards among newspapers;
- Uphold press freedom and promote self-discipline;
- Receive and handle public complaints against newspapers in a fair and impartial manner;
- Promote public understanding on news media and their roles in society
The Council receives and handles complaints relating to intrusion of privacy or articles of a prurient, indecent or sensational nature against local newspapers.