The past year seems a relatively quiet year with the end of the difficult and turbulent period brought about by the Occupy Central Movement. Yet, pressure and risk are latent and deeply rooted in the society. The economic downturn hits Hong Kong’s media hard. Journalists are facing both physical and intangible forms of violence. Upholding press freedom under constant threats to their personal safety, economic insecurity, pressure from the power and the risks of repercussion are the duty of many frontline journalists and they have done their jobs well.
HKJA is fighting this upside battle with the journalists. We stand firm to defend press freedom – a core value of Hong Kong and with our conscience telling what is black and what is white in a society filled with sophistry and fallacies. In the past year, we have worked very hard in the following three areas: defending press freedom, public education as well as members’ welfare and training. We hope to lay a solid and strong foundation so that we can together with our members meet the increasingly challenging environment of the media industry with competence and confidence.
Though reported cases of journalists being physically assaulted this year is less compared with the previous year, there are cases which journalists are particularly targeted. Hostility grows, attackers accuse journalists of failing to uphold the “fourth estate” and violence against journalists is just “sand and gravel” in a social movement. HKJA insists a zero tolerance to violent acts. Statements were issued to condemn the attackers and urged the police to investigate.
Non physical intervention of press freedom and freedom of speech is also worrying: cases are HKU’s application for a court injunction on the publication of information about its council meeting and the missing of the five Causeway Bay Book Shop booksellers. HKJA has petitioned against HKU injunction application and the hearing is still underway. The case will set an important example of upholding of press freedom.
The government is in no way positive or active in defending press freedom. HKJA has been urging the government to grant entry to press events to online media workers. A letter was sent to the Ombudsman to complain against this discriminative measure of the government.
Poor economic outlook together with the rise of internet media has hit the traditional media. ATV stopped its broadcasting service. Several papers and magazines closed. Yet the most shocking and disturbing event must be the dismissal of Ming Pao’s Executive Chief Editor Keung Kwok-yuen on the pretext of cost-cutting. Besides issuing statement to show our concern, HKJA with 7 media worker organizations staged the “Bringing Back Gutsy Journalist Rally” and HKJA will closely monitor self censorship situations in the industry.
HKJA conducted the Press Freedom Index Survey for the third year to understand how public and journalists viewed press freedom. Results show a worrying trend of deteriorating press freedom. The survey serves a good public education as it finds the public’s confidence is dropping even faster.
At the same time, we are concerned about our counterparts on the mainland and elsewhere in the world. The new National Security Law of PRC in relation to principle of “One Country Two Systems” may threaten human rights and freedom of speech. We also issued statements to support mainland journalist Gao Yu and Wang Xiaolu. In the past year, we have issued 25 statements and 8 open letters related to press freedom and freedom of speech. For details, please refer to Table 1 .
HKJA will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018. There are over 60 cartoons of photos, documents and audio tapes that tell of HKJA’s history and development. The stockpiling work of this treasure has completed.
Going into out campus
In the year of 2015-2016, we held 28 talks in secondary schools and 2 talks at universities. Feedback is positive. We look forward to having more young and frontline journalists to be our voluntary speakers and reach out for more schools. Through this, we hope to cultivate a more positive and correct image of journalists and their work in the minds of our younger generation. This is now even more important when we think of some online discussions are promoting violence against journalists.
As a trade union, HKJA has always been aware of the importance of providing training to members and equipping them with the ever-changing environment of the industry. 22 workshops and seminars were held last year, including a series of financial workshops and Basic Law talks, which received overwhelming support from members. The ExCom also explore the new media with a collaborative seminar with Google News Lab. It is planned that in the coming year, a series of seminars on how traditional media tackle the challenge of online media. HKJA also organised two study tours during the Taiwan Presidential Election period.
The ExCom resolved to set up HKJA Journalism Fellowships Pilot Scheme to provide financial assistance to member journalists who seek for career development and professional advancement through participating in recognized regional or international conferences or seminars. Initial annual sum was HK$50,000. No application, however, was received probably because of the late launch time and short application period. Given more notice time, the ExCom believes such program would certainly benefit members and hence, proposes to make it a regular scheme.
As for the second Mentorship Programme, response was good and 17 mentees were awarded certificates. It is planned to continue organising this program in the coming year. For more information about the workshops and seminars held in the past year, please refer to Table 2 A.
HKJA conducted a questionnaire survey from 6 to 22 January 2016. 400 media workers were asked about their working conditions. The survey reveals that over 30% of respondents are earning a monthly salary of 10,000 to 15,000 dollars. Compared with the study conducted in 2011, pay conditions are not improving. Low pay is the most significant reason causing journalists to change job, a lot more significant than the other two reasons: high pressure and political interference. The high turnover rates caused by the low salaries will in turn affect the quality of news.
Unstable working conditions for media workers may present difficulties to HKJA in recruiting new members. Last June, HKJA had 548 members. The latest number is 547. We have 184 new members and trends showed we have more members coming from online media organizations. Besides alignment of the Chinese and English versions of the Constitution, HKJA also proposes to change its rules to include media workers for online platforms as full members. 185 members failed to renew their memberships this year because they did not pay membership renewal fees on schedule, thus their membership was automatically cancelled. Please refer to Table 3 for details.
Our most popular sport event – the JA Cup celebrated its 31st anniversary. Though we faced difficulties of finding fields at the beginning, we managed to complete all games with help from Jockey Club’s Kitchee Centre in letting us use its fields. And soccer-loving journalists enjoyed cheerful moments on the football fields.
Incumbent ExCom member Cheung Chi-yan Tony will not seek a re-election in the coming year. The ExCom would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his dedication and contribution to the ExCom in the past year in particular his outstanding work for The Journalist.
The 2015-2016 Executive Committee
Hong Kong Journalists Association
18 June 2016