Hong Kong journalists are faced with a raft of challenges in the past 12 months, which have posed growing threats to freedom of the press and expression in the city, says Chris Yeung, Chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association.
Yeung made the comment at a press conference on Sunday (July 7) to announce the association’s 2019 annual report, entitled Red Line Stifles Freedoms.
The report analyses and documents events in the past 12 months that have deepened jitters in the local and international community about freedom of expression and the press in the city. They include the now-suspended extradition bill, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club saga and the Ma Jian case.
Despite its pledge of upholding press freedom, transparency and accountability, HKJA holds the view that the Government has done little to strengthen institutional safeguards including laws on archives and information access and improve practices in the dissemination of information.
Speaking at the press conference, Yeung said the next 12 months looks set to be a more difficult year for journalists. He cited the list of violence and harrassment journalists confronted when covering protests triggered by the extradition bill in recent weeks.
They include a total of 27 cases of complaints filed by journalists to the independent police watchdog against police officers over alleged use of excessive force during the protests on June 10 and June 12.
The report says: “The number of severity of those cases have raised a question of whether police officers have deliberately targeted at reporters and, if so, why… There are concerns that people’s right to know will be jeopardised if reporters are not given easy and safe access to the places where news are unfolding.”
HKJA urges the Government to reaffirm their commitment to uphold freedom of expression and freedom of the press through concrete actions and convincing words.
The government should not do anything that damages those freedoms as they have done so in the past 12 months on a list of matters including the FCC saga. They should also take specific actions as below:
- Withdraw the fugitive law amendment bill.
- The Government should not table Article 23 legislation without society consensus.
- The Government should speed up the enactment of a freedom of information law and an archives law that are effective in enhancing public access to information and archives.
- The Government should further improve the dissemination of information and press arrangements to facilitate the work of journalists.
- The Government should set up an independent investigation committee to probe the Police’s alleged violence or harassment against reporters and other media personnel covering extradition bill protests on June 10 and June 12. The investigation should also examine whether those violence and abuse of power involves high-level instructions.
Contents of the report are:
Chapter 1: Chris Yeung documents and analyses the impacts of Xi’s “red line” warning on freedoms and the implementation of “one country, two systems.” A separate piece written by an anonymous Hong Kong-based foreign journalist, looks deeper into the feelings of the foreign correspondents’ community towards the “red line warning.” Grace Kong’s article explains the row over the enactment of a law on national anthem.
Chapter 2: Allan Au discusses the remarkable censorship incidents happened in art and culture sector, publication industry and even the courier trade.
Chapter 3: Lam Yin-pong gives a snapshot of the media scene.
Chapter 4: Following years of lobbying by groups including HKJA, the government-appointed Law Reform Commission has issued two separate consultation papers on the enactment of laws on access of information and archives. Shirley Yam explains the updated progress of the two consultation papers in this chapter. Another piece written by Alvin Lum talks about Carrie Lam administration’s lack of transparency and accountability in their dissemination of information.
Chapter 5: Ching Cheong takes a penetrating look at the communist governments’ “ideological indoctrination” in the past s 70 years. He concludes that the ruling party’s propaganda work has created a mass with “no ideological baseline,” “no rationality,” “no conscience.”
Hong Kong Journalists Association
7 July 2019