Director of the central government's Liaison Office in Hong Kong Gao Siren has advised journalists to close their ranks, defend the freedom of the press and speech, help build a harmonious society and increase their interaction with the rest of the world.
Talking to a group of Hong Kong Federation of Journalists' members, who called on him on Wednesday, he said the media should safeguard the freedom of the press and speech and contribute to building a more harmonious society.
Describing the media as a key industry of the SAR, he said Hong Kong as a society has been able to ensure the free flow of information and to guarantee the people's right to know.
"This is something we must keep up," he said. "But the Hong Kong media should also act as a guiding force for economic development, social progress, maintenance of a sound legal regime and improvement of people's livelihood. Let me put it this way: in terms of safeguarding the freedom of the press and speech and the people's right to know, the local media has made significant contributions... On the other hand, opinion polls have indicated that the public is not so happy with its credibility."
"Can we associate," Gao suggested, "the media's bid to protect press freedom with the need to ensure its own credibility and shoulder social responsibilities? Only in this way could the industry give fuller play to its potential. I believe that everybody likes it. The public likes it. This is all the more important now that we need to build a harmonious society, a process that involves harmony in 'society', harmony between mankind and nature, and harmony among humans. Especially when the media is able to reflect harmony in social relations and promote such harmony itself, it has a very significant role to play.
"May I ask our news media, editors-in-chief, journalists and academics to also enhance their credibility while ensuring the freedom of the press and speech and committing themselves to social responsibilities? That is the only way to fully leverage the influence of the media in building a harmonious society."
Gao's second most important point was for members of the industry to unite to safeguard their legitimate rights. This is the way to foster cohesiveness, centripetal force and vitality. A political party or group that does not protect the legitimate rights and benefits of its members would lose its steam and support, he said.
Gao said journalists, especially members of the Hong Kong Federation of Journalists, have to discipline themselves and be very self-demanding first to safeguard their legitimate rights.
"Only when you strictly discipline yourselves and abide by the law can your legitimate rights be protected. Under this premise, if such rights are infringed upon, the federation should act on behalf of its members and defend them. This is the only way the body can build up its influence and develop the centripetal force. This way the federation would continue to expand and take in more members. It will not only grow in size, but will also elevate itself to a higher level. And its membership will no longer be limited to those from newspaper managements. Even frontline reporters would then like to join it."
Gao's third important advice to the industry was self-enhancement of its members and an increase in the number of exchanges with the mainland and other parts of the world.
The federation has ties with China Journalists' Association, Shanghai Journalists' Association, Guangdong Journalists' Association and with mainland universities, such as Tsinghua, Peking, Renmin and Fudan. It should capitalize on this advantage and step up its cooperation with the mainland, on the one hand, and strengthen its international ties, on the other.
"(The federation should) raise the quality of Hong Kong journalists through collaboration and training and do a good job in the field of journalism," he said.
Gao said it was an honor to have the world famous Louis Cha as the federation's honorable chairman. This should prompt the federation to upgrade itself and do more exchange work.
Gao promised that the central government's Liaison Office in Hong Kong would provide active support to the exchange and collaboration programs that the federation and other members of the local media undertake with their mainland counterparts.
(China Daily HK Edition August 11, 2006)