Macao’s election chief has spoken out to clarify media reporting rules during this autumn’s direct and indirect elections to the Legislative Assembly.
Legislative Assembly Electoral Affairs Commission (CAEAL) President Tong Hio Fong said that on the day before and on the day of the elections on 12 September local media will only need to hide online articles that specifically campaign for a particular candidacy list with the aim of influencing voters’ choice.
Tong reaffirmed that the 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, so there will be no need to hide news reports that were published after the respective media organisations’ reporters covered the campaign-related activities carried out by the various candidacy lists.
Tong spoke out in response to concerns over remarks he previously made stating that on the eve and on the day of the elections, local media must hide all their online campaign-related “news articles”, because such articles might directly or indirectly lead voters to choose particular candidacy lists.
Since Tong’s initial remarks, representatives of the local media have pointed out that the measure’s implementation would be impractical. Some journalists even expressed concern that the measure would undermine Macao’s press freedom, freedom of speech and the public’s right to know, The Macau Post Daily reported.
The 14-day campaign period of this year’s direct and indirect elections will run from 28 August to 10 September . Based on Macao’s European election system, no electioneering is allowed on the day before and on the day of the election.
Tong admitted that his previous remarks had failed to clearly distinguish between news reporting and electioneering.
Tong pointed out that his commission has been aware that during the previous election in 2017, some media only published articles interviewing certain candidacy lists, focused on their respective election campaign platforms and urged voters to choose them when casting their ballot.
Tong said that this kind of article amounts to electioneering, stressing that this year 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.