The business environment for the press and media remains difficult and challenging. Many journalists are facing the pressure of layoff and jobs being outsourced. In the general political environment, despite the change of leaders of the HKSAR government and the introduction of new policies for online-only media giving access to government press events, the threats to press freedom in the city are still imminent. The primary objectives of the ExCom in 2017-18 are to uphold freedom of the press and to assist fellow journalists to enhance work related skills through training and workshops in view of the transformation of the media industry. HKJA enters its 50th anniversary in 2018. Through our 50th anniversary activities, we re-affirm to society our unwavering commitment to upholding press freedom and improving working conditions for journalists. HKJA will keep bracing against the wind in face of difficulties and challenges.
Upholding freedom of the press
HKJA released the fifth Press Freedom Index in April this year, with the survey results showing that 73% of the journalist respondents were of the view that press freedom in Hong Kong had become worse compared to a year ago. Journalists said that there have been increasing instances of their supervisors or management editing or deleting their articles and news reports, or rejecting their story ideas for fear of offending the Central Government.
We are worried about this situation. During the past year, we published a number of statements on upholding press freedom and editorial independence. (For details, please refer to Table 1). The issues we addressed included instances of many journalists being denied entry into Macau in August and September 2017, to which HKJA expressed great concern and regret.
Assault and threats of violence against journalists
There were a number of assault cases against Hong Kong journalists in Hong Kong and the Mainland during 2017-18. On July 1 2017, a reporter from Hong Kong Inmedia was hit when he covered a demonstration in Wan Chai. In May 2018 two reporters suffered attacks while reporting on the Mainland. A reporter from i-Cable TV News was assaulted during his reporting in Sichuan province. A Beijing-based cameraman from Now TV News was handcuffed and forcefully pushed him onto the ground by Beijing police. HKJA issued statements condemning these attacks. Regarding the case in Beijing, HKJA together with six other journalist associations jointly issued an open letter to Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in HKSAR, lodging strong protest against the violence and urging the Hong Kong Government and the mainland authorities to protect the personal safety and the lawful right of reporting of Hong Kong journalists.
Besides, journalists of the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) received threatening mails in last year. HKJA was appalled and called on the police to investigate to its best endeavors.
Reporting rights of online news media
In March 2017, HKJA filed an application for judicial review against the government’s ban on online-only news media from government news events and facilities. The government announced new policy for online-only media in September and lifted that ban. HKJA withdrew its application for judicial review and continues to monitor the government’s policy and its implementation.
Going into Campus
During 2017-18, we gave media talks in 17 secondary schools, thanks to the help of some journalists acting as volunteer speakers. Through this, we hope to cultivate a more positive image of journalists and their work in the minds of our younger generations, and to let them understand the importance of press freedom.
HKJA aimed to equip member reporters with multi-skills to face the challenges of the transformation of the news industry through trainings and workshops in the last year. We also offered seminars for in-depth discussion on some major news topics. A total of nine workshops and seminars and a 3-month course were organised for these purposes during 2017-18. (For more details, please refer to Table 2).
To enhance reporters’ digital skills and understanding of on-line media, we invited experienced media professionals to share their experience and tips for producing popular social media content. We have also organized a 15-lesson course on video production, and a half day crash course on photo-editing techniques. As some journalists face the pressure of layoff or outsourcing of jobs, we invited a number of former reporters who have turned into freelancers and internet celebrities to share their experience and knowledge of related legal and labour issues.
We also organized a number of seminars and workshops on studying some tough news issues. The “How land was Created” workshop provided a discussion on the controversies surrounding land use issues in the New Territories, and taught attendees how to use maps and land registration records to dig out problems about land use. We have also organized an “Ethical Questions about Organ Transplant and Donations Seminar” and a “Reporting Sexual Assault Workshop”.
The latest membership count is 482. HKJA has 95 new members this year. A total of 256 members have not renewed their membership. (Please refer to table 3 for details.) Some of them have changed careers and no longer qualify to be members. To enhance the efficiency of membership renewal mechanism, we have revamped the HKJA website and installed online membership renewal function. The new site is expected to be launched in July 2018. Staff changes in HKJA office last year affected the liaison work with members. In the coming year we will put more efforts in members liaison works.
Our most popular sports event – the JA Cup celebrated its 33th anniversary. The tournament is ongoing.
HKJA 50th Anniversary
2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of HKJA. We have published a book which tells the association’s history and major events with photographs, articles and sharing by some veteran members and workers at HKJA. The Gala Dinner this year expanded in scale to celebrate this milestone with 59 tables. We invited Mr Sohn Suk-hee, the main anchor and President of JTBC Newsroom from Korea as our Keynote Speaker at the Gala Dinner. A sharing session by him was also organized for local journalists and students and lecturers of journalism. Through these activities, we hope to enhance journalists understanding of the experience of Korean journalists in their striving for press freedom, raise the morale of fellow journalists, and reiterate to society about journalists’ missions of seeking the truth and reporting social problems.
Incumbent Vice-chairperson Sham Yee-lan and ExCom members Chan Kin-kai, Eva Tsang, Cathy Chu, Pell Ng and Ben Kwok did not seek re-election for the coming year. The ExCom would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their contributions. Sham Yee-lan had been a member of the ExCom since 2011. During 2017-18 she was the convener of the 50th Anniversary Preparation Committee, edited the HKJA 50th Anniversary book and the gala dinner bulletin, and supervised the production of two videos – one on HKJA history and another on sharing by some young journalists. Chan Kin-kai has served in the ExCom for a total of 8 years. Eva Tsang has been ExCom member for 5 years, and Pell Ng for 3 years. We are grateful for the efforts and support of HKJA members, members of ExCom and many voluntary workers. We wish everyone every success in the future!
The 2017-2018 Executive Committee
Hong Kong Journalists Association
23 June 2018