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Journalists split on press council

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Local journalists are divided on the possible creation of a press council, with Portuguese-language staff calling for an independent body and Chinese-language workers wary of government intervention.
Authorities held a consultation session yesterday on the revision of the press and broadcasting laws, which were enacted over 20 years ago. The main issue has been the press and broadcasting councils, which were included in the law but never created.
Representatives from the ‘Macau Journalists Association’ said the councils should simply be removed from the law.
“I have many doubts over its composition. I fear it will always be made up of the same high-ranking editors or directors,” said Chen Lai Cheng. “The market is enough to control media behaviour,” Pang Oi Chi added.
José Carlos Matias, the news-programming director of TDM’s English-language channel disagreed, stressing the need for “a self-regulation mechanism born of a sector consensus”.
“It’s about creating a balance between protecting freedom of press and regulation,” he said.
His Portuguese-language counterpart suggested the introduction of a single council covering all media. But, João Francisco Pinto added, the initiative would have to come from journalists. “The existing law is no impediment. We could even delete the provisions on the press council,” he said.
Ou Mun Iat Pou journalist, Si Tou Wai Ip, was among some Chinese-language journalists calling for “an independent, autonomous organisation, creation by the sector.”
“The population must have a mechanism to present complaints or comments,” TDM’s Chinese language channel journalist Leong On Kei added.
On the other hand, a journalist from Portuguese news agency Lusa said the priority should be professional accreditation. “There is no internationally-recognised document that proves we are journalists outside of Macau,” José Costa Santos said.
Pinto agreed: “Only an independent accreditation mechanism could give us [journalists] credibility and accountability before the society.”
But even on this issue a consensus between all journalists is unlikely, the director of Rádio Macau’s Portuguese-language channel said. Gilberto Lopes called on the Administration to set up an independent commission “headed by a judge and with one representative from the government and from each of the five journalists’ associations.”
The head of the Government Information Bureau, Victor Chan Chi Ping, reiterated that the government “will not intervene” in the possible creation of the press and broadcasting councils, stressing that the bureau stopped issuing media accreditation in late 2006.

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