By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) so far had received eight complaints from candidates against two local newspapers in relation to unfair coverage, the EAC president said yesterday.
Fong Man Chong said the commission is always concerned about the election news reports, and to date eight related written complaints had been lodged.
He also confirmed that one of the two newspapers involved was Chinese newspaper Macao Daily News.
According to the EAC president, the commission will strive to “maintain a balance between freedom of the press, editorial independence and the media’s responsibility to ensure all lists will be treated equally”.
He said that the EAC would forward the complaints to the media organisations involved based on “the principles of debate and confrontation”, and ask for further information and explanations.
Yet, no newspaper has yet been confirmed to have run unfair stories, Mr Fong said, adding the EAC is still waiting for the organisations’ replies.
Meanwhile, a letter addressed to the director of Macao Daily News from the EAC Secretary-General Tou Chi Man, which is being scanned to an online social network, shows that the EAC “reminds” the newspaper to comply with the relevant regulations of the Legislative Election Law in order to “make sure candidates are being treated fairly and impartially in all aspects”.
Mr Fong confirmed to the Portuguese reporters yesterday the letter was authentic.
The “reminder”, dated on September 11, was issued after a complaint was lodged by the Democratic New Macao Association, who accused the Chinese daily of having “seriously damaged the list’s interests by running biased coverage on September 9 of its press conference and quoting speeches from internet forums”.
In the September 8 press conference to introduce their platform, Au Kam San the first candidate was asked by reporters whether he supported spiritual practice Falun Gong, and the Chinese daily reported that Mr Au “resisted giving a direct response”.
The anti-China power made use of Falun Gong last year to organise a “human rights torch relay” last year in an attempt to disrupt the Beijing Olympic Games, and Mr Au had participated in the Macau leg at that time.
On Tuesday the incumbent lawmaker cum democrat issued a statement, reiterated that he had given a precise response at that time and denied he was a follower of Falun Gong.
Mr Au said that he was always concerned about human rights issues in both China and Macau, and thus took part in the torch relay last year aiming to urge China to improve human rights.
On the other hand, since the election campaign was started some lists were trying to “point fingers at each other”, the EAC president said if candidates found the content was unsubstantial, they should report to entities responsible for investigations.
According to the Penal Code, the Prosecutions Office will not initiate investigations concerning defamation and insults until reports are received from relevant parties.
Over the past 12 days of the campaign, Mr Fong said some lists might not be very well familiar with the Election Law and therefore committed certain behaviours that aroused voters’ discontent or even were not legitimate.
He said he believed that the candidates would learn from the experience this time and in the future the election level will be raised.
Polling station operation test
The EAC yesterday mobilised around 160 public security trainees and several departments to take part in a joint rehearsal at the Tap Seac Pavilion polling station.
The practice aimed to test the hardware facilities, venue arrangements, contingency responses of staff workers and the police force.
Mr Fong said an internal appraisal would be conducted in order to ensure a “smooth operation” this Sunday.
“According to the 2005 election experience, some situations were actually avoidable. As our staff workers were not sensitive enough, some voters complained. We don’t want to see this happen again this year,” he said.
In addition, a simulated polling station will be set up and open for the general public at the Tap Seac Pavilion today and tomorrow from 11am to 9pm.
“Even non voters are welcome if they wish to know more about Macau’s elections,” Mr Fong said.