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Media don’t need to ‘hide’ online election campaign news: govt

2021-04-01 04:03     Comment:0

Legislative Assembly Electoral Affairs Commission (CAEAL) President Tong Hio Fong clarified yesterday that on the day before and on the day of the direct and indirect elections on September 12 the local media will only need to hide their online articles that specifically campaign for a particular candidacy list with the aim of urging voters to choose that list when casting their ballot.

Tong also reaffirmed that his commission’s “concealment requirement” for the two days – which was announced early last month – does not cover news articles reporting various candidacy lists’ campaign-related activities, i.e. there is no need to hide news reports that have been published after the respective media organisations’ reporters covered the campaign-related activities carried out by the various candidacy lists.

Tong made the remarks while speaking to reporters after a meeting between his commission and representatives from the city’s six gaming operators. The closed-door meeting at the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) in Nam Van was also attended by DICJ officials and representatives from the Macau Gaming Industry Intermediary Association.

Yesterday’s remarks by Tong came in response to local media workers’ concerns over his remarks made during his commission’s meeting with representatives from local media outlets on March 10, when he said that on the eve and on the day of the elections, the local media must hide all their online campaign-related “news articles” because, he said at that time, these articles might directly or indirectly lead voters to choose particular candidacy lists. At that time Tong underlined the need for the local media to ensure that members of the public would be unable to access and search such articles that have been published on online platforms on the two days.

Since Tong’s remarks on March 10, representatives of the local media sector have pointed out that the measure’s implementation would be impractical. Some journalists even expressed concern that the measure would undermine Macau’s press freedom, freedom of speech and the public’s right to know.

The 14-day campaign period of this year’s direct and indirect elections will run from August 28 to September 10. Based on Macau’s continental European election system, no electioneering is allowed on the day before and on the day of the election.

A statement by the commission on Tuesday aimed to clarify its request for the local media to hide their online campaign-related articles on the eve and on the day of the elections. According to Tuesday’s statement, online articles about election campaign activities that media outlets will be required to hide on the two days refer to those which draw members of the public’s attention to particular candidacy lists and suggest – explicitly or implicitly – voters choose or not choose a particular candidacy list.

In the 2017 direct Legislative Assembly election, 25 candidacy lists vied for the 14 seats at stake.

According to Tuesday’s statement, the commission believes that local media outlets will continue to adhere to impartiality concerning their news coverage, adding that their professionalism will enable them to clearly distinguish between news reporting and electioneering.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Tong admitted that his previous remarks had failed to clearly distinguish between news reporting and electioneering.

Tong clarified and underlined that the online articles that the local media must hide on the day before and on the day of the elections only refer to those that aim to promote certain candidacy lists’ election campaigns, not news articles that report various candidacy lists’ campaign-related activities.

Tong pointed out that his commission has been aware that throughout the previous election in 2017, some newspapers only published articles interviewing certain candidacy lists, focused on their respective election campaign platforms and urged voters to choose them when casting the ballot. Tong said that this kind of article amounts to electioneering, adding that this time the local media must hide this kind of article on their online platforms on the day before and on the day of this year’s elections.

Tong clarified that if a local media outlet covers the campaign-related activities carried out by different candidacy lists and then publishes the news articles respectively, they will not be required to hide this kind of article on their online platforms on the two days.

Gaming operators barred from involvement in election campaigns

Meanwhile, while briefing reporters after yesterday’s meeting Tong pointed out that according to the Legislative Assembly Election Law, gaming and junket operators must adhere to impartiality for the direct and indirect legislative elections, according to which they are not allowed to get involved – directly or indirectly – in election campaigns.

More specifically, Tong said that the gaming operators and junket operators are not allowed to engage in any activities that could benefit or adversely affect particular candidacy lists.

According to Tong, staff members of the gaming operators and junket operators are not allowed to carry out election campaigns and lobbying in their workplace and during their work hours. They are also barred from storing or displaying campaign-related labels or any other materials at their workplace.

According to Tong, the commission requires the gaming and junket operators to tell their staff members about the requirements. The operators’ representatives promised in yesterday’s meeting that the companies will ensure that their staff members will understand the requirements, such as by publishing and displaying announcements at their workplaces, according to Tong.


Legislative Assembly Electoral Affairs Commission (CAEAL) President Tong Hio Fong (centre) briefs reporters yesterday after a closed-door meeting between his commission, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ), representatives from the city’s six gaming operators and from the Macau Gaming Industry Intermediary Association on the DICJ premises, as fellow commission members Lai U Hou (left) and Kou Peng Kuan look on. Photo: GCS

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