Press Freedoms in Hong Kong are ‘in tatters,’ according to the Hong Kong Journalists Union.
The city’s major journalist union said Thursday that Hong Kong’s press freedoms are “in shreds” as China reshapes the formerly vocal business powerhouse in its own authoritarian image, warning that “fake news” legislation are on the way.
As the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) released its annual report, Ronson Chan, chairman, remarked, “The past year has clearly been the worst year for press freedom thus far.”
The research cited a series of incidents that have had an impact on the media since China imposed a broad national security ordinance on Hong Kong last summer in an attempt to quell dissent following massive and often deadly democratic rallies the year before.
The jailing of pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai and the freezing of his Apple Daily newspaper’s assets, according to the authors, led to the closure of the Beijing-critical daily.
More than 700 journalists have lost their jobs, while Lai and a number of Apple Daily executives are presently in custody, accused of attempting to harm China’s national security through the content of the newspaper’s reporting.
Authorities, according to the HKJA report, have turned the city’s public broadcaster RTHK into a “government propaganda apparatus” by dismissing key workers and canceling current affairs programming.
The study also cautioned that accessing public databases was becoming more difficult, citing one RTHK journalist’s conviction for using vehicle license plates to investigate a violent attack on pro-democracy supporters by government loyalists.
Financial transparency advocates have criticized the administration for attempting to prevent journalists from seeing the identities of firm owners on the city’s registry.
The research cautioned that “authoritarian repression is felt across several types of media.” “Under a harsh government, freedoms have deteriorated significantly.”
Chan expressed concern that more legislation restricting the media is in the pipeline.
Hong Kong’s top leaders and pro-Beijing MPs have asked for “fake news” legislation, which critics worry will be used to suppress coverage that authorities hate.
“There are already a lot of knives hanging over journalists’ heads, such as anti-sedition and anti-incitement laws, so we don’t need another one called a fake news law,” Chan added.
Reporters Without Borders has lowered Hong Kong’s annual press freedom ranking from 18th in 2002 to 80th this year.
Mainland China is ranked 177th out of 180 countries, only ahead of Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea.
Several worldwide media businesses have regional offices in Hong Kong, drawn by the city’s mini-business-friendly constitution’s policies and free speech protections.
However, several local and international news outlets are debating if this is the case. Brief News from Washington Newsday.