A group of international journalists has urged the global community to continue condemning the Hong Kong government’s “media offensive” in a report on press freedom in the city released last week.
The Hong Kong Freedom of Expression Report 2022, previously compiled by the city’s largest media group – the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) – has been released by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) last Friday.
Titled “The Story That Won’t Be Silent,” the report details the number of media outlets that have closed in the past two years, as well as which journalists and companies have been sued.
Among the outlets that were raided and shut down were Apple Daily and Stand News. The two outlets – and some of their former employees – were charged under the National Security Act or the colonial-era Sedition Act last year, with trials due to begin soon.
Citizen News and Factwire outlets also closed shortly after the newsroom raids.
In total, the IFJ cited the national security law imposed by Beijing as the direct or indirect reason for the closure of at least 12 media outlets, adding that the number was “unprecedented in Hong Kong’s history”. .
The IFJ has also listed new organizations formed around the world following the arrests and disbanding of old outlets.
“The geographic distribution of new dissident services gives hope that the underlying resistance to Hong Kong’s identity can survive the ongoing large-scale migration from the territory,” reads the report.
Humanitarian visas and sentencing
Among the list of recommendations included at the end of the report, the IFJ called on other governments to support journalists hoping to leave the city by issuing “humanitarian visas or special visa programs for those who must flee to ensure their immediate safety.” “.
“The international community must continue to condemn the media offensive by the governments of China and Hong Kong that began under the guise of the Covid-19 pandemic, backed by the introduction of the National Security Law and the ‘abuse of existing laws on crimes such as sedition to intimidate independent media to shut down,’ the group urged.
In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – after a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalized subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces, and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption of transportation and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming Democrats, civil society groups and business partners, as these laws have been widely used to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.
Previous HKJA reports have been removed
Meanwhile, previous years’ reports previously available on the HKJA website have been removed.
A spokesperson for HKJA told HKFP that the group stopped writing the annual report early this year and hid annual reports for past years “due to political pressure”.
“HKJA thanks other organizations like the IFJ who care about press freedom in Hong Kong,” the spokesperson said, adding that the group was unaware of the report released by the IFJ and did not had not participated.
See also: The decline of press freedom in Hong Kong under the security law
The HKJA has faced increasing pressure from the authorities since the enactment of the National Security Law, with the union registry asking the group to justify its activities for the first time in January this year. The group then voted in June to lower the dissolution threshold.
In April, John Lee – who a few weeks later became the city’s latest, said freedom of the press exists in the city, so there’s no need to ask him to ‘defend’ it. .
Freedom of the press is collapsing
Public confidence in the credibility of Hong Kong’s media has fallen to its lowest level in two decades, according to a survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong released in August.
Weeks later, the HKJA’s Press Freedom Index fell to a new low for the third year in a row, as journalists questioned the media’s effectiveness as a watchdog in an increasingly more difficult for the industry.
Meanwhile, this year’s Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index saw the city plunge 68 places to 148th in the world, sandwiching the international business hub between the Philippines and Turkey. It says 13 Hong Kong media workers are still behind bars.
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