The HKU injunction reimagined: Press freedom protection in confidentiality cases
Albert Camus once wrote, “a free press can of course be good or bad, but most certainly without freedom the press will never be anything but bad.” In the recent interlocutory injunction application The University of Hong Kong v Commercial Broadcasting Co Ltd, the University of Hong Kong (“HKU case”) sought to enforce confidentiality by way of an injunction against the press. The University also sought to refrain “persons unknown” from disclosing an unauthorized tape recording of the council meeting on the appointment of the Pro Vice Chancellor of the University. The Counsel in the hearing submitted that, “it is not our side’s intention to enter a fight with the press”, but serious questions against press freedom arose. The legal issue to be resolved was whether the public interests in HKU’s application are properly recognized, and whether HKU should prove that the public interests in preserving press freedom do not overweigh public interest breach of confidence claim. The result of the hearing was that a permanent injunction is granted to HKU and the duty of confidentiality on that alleged meeting overrides concerns of press freedom. I believe this is justice that is delayed, and justice delayed is justice denied.  Consequently, I wonder whether the Hong Kong Courts are providing inadequate protection to freedom of press because of the legal approach adopted. In this essay, I will first list out the relevant facts of the case, and then discuss how the Court assessed the duty of confidence and the balancing exercise of competing interests. I will also compare HK with the laws in the UK; of which I have found that the English system grants a better protection to protect a person’s freedom of expression.
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