HomeUncategorizedAny Semblance of Free Press in Hong Kong has been Destroyed

Any Semblance of Free Press in Hong Kong has been Destroyed

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In recent times, Hong Kong’s once-robust free media has faced significant challenges. “National Security” laws established in 2020 have largely reduced the presence of free media, making way for more pro-Beijing and state-owned media. A report by the UK-based group, Hong Kong Watch, highlighted these alarming shifts.

Just a short time ago, the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondent’s Club announced they were putting their Human Rights Press Awards on hold. Why? They were concerned about unintentionally breaking the city’s those new laws.

The landscape for journalists in Hong Kong has transformed. Many now work under difficult circumstances. This includes facing legal battles (“lawfare”), intimidation, even violence from the police, sudden job losses, and direct government interference in their work. Journalists have experienced changes in how they are defined by the police and looming threats of new laws, such as one addressing “fake news”, that could curb their freedom.

Following the 2019 pro-democracy protests, major outlets like Apple Daily and Stand News closed their doors. People are now cautious about sharing information, worried about facing legal issues or other forms of retaliation.

A disturbing incident was shared by Chris Wong, once a news presenter at TVB. He recalled a time when he reported on an attack against a pro-democracy councillor, Andrew Chiu, who had his ear bitten off. Shockingly, his editors changed the story, suggesting that the ear “fell off naturally.” This skewed representation of reality raises serious concerns about media integrity in the region.

Journalists have experienced firsthand the animosity during the protests. A photojournalist from South China Morning Post recalled the police’s aggression towards them. Even after removing protective gear and sitting down, the police sprayed tear gas directly at them.

The suppression of Hong Kong’s media has given pro-Beijing outlets more influence. These outlets have been accused of distributing propaganda for both the Chinese Communist Party and the Hong Kong government, attacking their critics through printed materials and harassment.

The director of Hong Kong Watch, Benedict Rogers, voiced concerns about Ta Kung Pao, a pro-Beijing outlet. They’ve increased their attacks against entities like the church and individuals in Hong Kong.

  • Since the imposition of the National Security Law on 1 July 2020, almost all independent and pro-democracy media outlets have been forced to close, 18 journalists have been arrested and at least 12 journalists and media executives are currently in jail awaiting trial.
  • The Hong Kong Government is using a combination of the National Security Law and antiquated common law charges like ‘sedition’ under the Crimes Ordinance to wage lawfare against journalists.
  • The Hong Kong Police Force, under the pre-text of the National Security Law, raided the newsrooms of pro-democracy publications Apple Daily and Stand News and the two publications were forced to close in 2021.
  • The public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) has lost all editorial independence and objectivity, axed at least 12 programmes, deleted most of its archive from more than a year ago, deleted its Twitter history and banned the audience from commenting on its Twitter page.
  • Media groups are exercising extensive self-censorship.
  • New restrictions on access to public records have been introduced.
  • The Hong Kong Police Force has introduced a new definition of “journalist”, effectively imposing restrictions on freelance reporters, online journalists, student journalists and citizen journalists.
  • The government proposes to introduce a “fake news” law which will further restrict media freedom. This may be a part of Article 23 domestic national security legislation.
  • Foreign correspondents face increasing challenges securing or renewing visas.
  • Pro-Beijing media continues to attack and harass critics.
  • Police violence in 2019 resulted in shocking violations of human rights against journalists and media workers. Journalists who previously covered police brutality during these protests have found themselves targeted in the current crackdown.

In a concerning instance, Ronson Chan, former editor of Stand News, claimed he was followed by a Ta Kung Pao reporter, leading to false stories about him in the media. The same outlet released names of artists they linked with anti-government activists, causing some, like artist Kacey Wong, to leave for Taiwan.

Unfortunately, while some free and international outlets still exist, the general public faces limited choices in local Chinese language news. This limitation means many get their news through the lens of Beijing’s narrative.

Hong Kong Watch has made a call to action. They’re urging global governments to provide safe routes and assistance for Hong Kong journalists looking to move, continue Cantonese language media overseas, and exert pressure on the Hong Kong government to bring back media freedoms.

This is the result of accepting a totalitarian government. Hong Kong residents were offered citizenship in Canada, and millions went. Perhaps more should have taken advantage.

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