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Former RTHK journalist wins appeal over license plate search regarding Yuen Long documentary

Former RTHK journalist wins appeal over license plate search regarding Yuen Long documentary

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Former RTHK journalist Bao Choy has won her appeal against a conviction regarding making false statements to access vehicle records about the "Yuen Long attack" in 2019.

According to the written judgement by The Court of Final Appeal released on Monday, Choy's use of the database did indeed fall within the category she selected, and "even if it did not, it was not an irresistible inference that she knew that to be false". It also said that a "substantial and grave injustice" was done to Choy by inferring that she knowingly made false statements when accessing the search application database for vehicle registration records.

"Whilst such rights are not absolute and may be restricted where necessary, there is no reason to proceed from a starting point that bona fide journalism should be excluded from the phrase 'other traffic and transport related matters," the judgement read. 

The judgement also said that a journalist in the appellant’s position faced with the online application form and its drop down menu could well be honestly mistaken in thinking it included that activity as one “relating to traffic and transport matters”. The court also ruled that the fact that Choy was exercising her freedom of speech and of the press in connection with investigating the events of 21 July 2019 should be taken into consideration.

Back in 2021, Choy was found guilty of making false statements to obtain vehicle ownership records for a documentary she was producing for RTHK about the investigation of police’s response to the 2019 Yuen Long mob attack. She was fined HK$6,000.

In her application to access a public licence plate database, Choy declared that her search belonged to the category of “Other traffic and transport related matters”. Meanwhile, other available options include “Legal proceedings” and “Sale and purchase of vehicle”. Two lower courts found that Choy's declaration was false. 

Don't miss: HK sees more independent media with latest launch of The Collective HK

Commenting on the verdict, Hong Kong Journalists Association said that the ruling is welcoming and it was a wrong decision to arrest Choy at the beginning. "It was ridiculous to see journalists being arrested, charged, or even convicted for seeking the truth...Although Bao Choy won her appeal, the case is sufficient to reflect the difficult situation that the news industry is in,” the statement read.

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Photo courtesy: Facebook page @爆炸頭

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