By Cui Wencan

Using official or publicly-available records helps journalists strengthen their investigative reports, Reuters’ special correspondent Greg Torode said at a forum on Monday.

Hong Kong’s colonial legacy has made Hong Kong’s record-keeping system good, he said. “But it’s far from perfect.”

In 1995, Hong Kong journalists and legislators called for a freedom of information law. It was never enacted, but instead a Code on Access to Information was established. This gives the government the ability to block broad areas, Torode said.

“It’s very hard, almost impossible to have a judicial view, for example, to demand the government to give you the information,” Torode said.

One way to get information, he suggested, is getting access to official materials, which includes browsing the government’s websites or reading official gazettes. “Records can keep you out of the soup,” he said.

Torode is one of six SOPA Award-winning journalists speaking at a forum at Hong Kong Baptist University this week.

As a reporter specializing in politics and security issues across Asia for more than two decades, Torode emphasized the importance of building sources and contacts, especially those who can provide information not be provided by authorities.

Issues such as how to obtain information on offshore companies in British Virgin Islands and from mainland China were also discussed in the lecture.

Didi Kirsten Tatlow, a Beijing-based correspondent for The New York Times, also shared her experience in getting information in mainland China Monday morning.