Administration's Further Response to Points raisedMeeting on 28 April 1999 (LC Paper No. CB(2)1838/98-99(01))
by Members of the Bills Committee
on Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Bill
Members point out that media commentaries published for the purpose of promoting or prejudicing a candidate at an election would fall within the new definition of election advertisement proposed by the Administration (item 1 of LC Paper No. CB(2)1805(01) refers). However, this contradicts paragraph 5 of Appendix to Chapter 8 of the EAC's Proposed Guidelines in respect of the 1999 District Councils Election which states that "Any newspaper is at full liberty to express its support for or disapproval of a candidate". The Administration is requested to comment on this anomaly, and to consider excluding commentaries on candidates by newspapers or concerned groups from the definition of election advertisement.
The appendix in EAC's Guidelines concerns fair and equal reporting and coverage of candidates by the print media. The relevant paragraph clarifies that any newspaper can freely express its support or disapproval of a candidate. It is not, however, inconsistent with the definition of election advertisement in the Bill. Under our proposal to amend the definition of "election advertisement" by including a purpose test, if the views expressed by a newspaper are not for the purpose of promoting or prejudicing the election of a candidate or candidates, they will not fall within the definition of election advertisement. We consider that the inclusion of such a purpose test can strike a balance between fair elections and freedom of speech.