“The year under review has been the darkest for press freedom for several decades.” This is the stark opening to the latest Annual Report published by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) titled Press Freedom Under Siege. As political tension between Hong Kong and Beijing increases, the HKJA expects further deterioration in press freedom in the years to come.
The press has experienced grave attacks both physical and otherwise in the past 12 months, according to the report.
The alarming events include the brutal chopper attack on former Ming Pao Daily News chief editor Kevin Lau, the sacking of talk-show host Li Wei-ling and the removal of other prominent journalists from senior editorial positions, advertising boycotts launched against Apple Daily and am730, and the refusal of the government to issue a free-to-air TV licence to Hong Kong Television Network, which shows the way that the government can use licensing as a weapon against the media.
This came as the political environment deteriorated amid debate over how the chief executive should be elected by the people in 2017. Beijing has increased pressure on Hong Kong, issuing a white paper that appears to limit the Special Administrative Region’s autonomy and lecturing media representatives on the need to increase their coverage of opposition to the pan-democratic Occupy Central movement and to report on the mainland’s economic development in an objective and rational manner. Such comments pile pressure on the media.
These developments further narrow the limited press freedom in place since the chief executive Leung Chun-ying took office in 2012. Indeed, different international press freedom indexes haveshown that Hong Kong’s ranking has slipped. Further, according to Hong Kong’s first press freedom index – launched by the HKJA – journalists rated press freedom at 42 on a 100-point scale – which is considered to be on the low side. They also expressed concern about self-censorship and pressure from media owners and management.
The report analyses these developments, with particular emphasis on attacks on journalists, sackings and job transfers, the advertising boycott and the frustrated efforts of Hong Kong Television Network to win a TV licence. It also examines the role of internet news sites in giving Hong Kong residents an alternative take on the news and the latest on the law reform front -primarily the glacial moves to enact freedom of information legislation, a long-time demand by the HKJA.
The report calls on the Leung Chun-ying administration to fully respect the independence of the media. In particular, it calls on the government to take all possible measures to prevent violence against journalists and pursue perpetrators, including masterminds; to rethink its decision on denying a free-to-air TV licence to Hong Kong Television Network; to make a decision on TV and radio licence renewal which encourages media diversity; to enact freedom of information and archives legislation as a matter of urgency; and to review its policy on law reform to ensure that freedom of expression concerns are taken into full account.
The HKJA also calls on media owners and top executives to respect the right of journalists to carry out their duties without pressure and to expose details of advertising boycotts to discourage the practice which threatens the development of independent media in Hong Kong.
In view of the deterioration, the HKJA today announced the establishment of Self-censorship Monitoring Committee to investigate into complaints by members of the press. The committee, which is composed of journalists, academics and lawyers, will make public confirmed self-censorship cases. (Please refer to the appendix for details) The committee will hopefully increase public awareness of that by telling them what has been taken out from the media.
If you want more information, please contact the HKJA on 2591 0692 or email [email protected]
Hong Kong Journalists Association
6 July 2014
Self Censorship Monitoring Committee
- Capitalise on expertise in different sectors to monitor the situation of self censorship in local media in a neutral and objective manner..
- promote public awareness to self censorship in local media with the aim of safeguarding press freedom
Scope of Work
- receive complaint on self censorship
- take evidence and verify on complaints
- release of established cases of self censorship
Definition of Self Censorship
‘A set of editorial actions ranging from omission, dilution, distortion, and change of emphasis to a choice of rhetorical devices by journalists, their organizations, and even the entire media community in anticipation of currying reward and avoiding punishments from the power structure’ .
Chin-chuan Lee “Press Self-Censorship and Political Transition in Hong Kong”, The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 1998 3:55.
The Committee comprises no less than 8 members, with distribution as follows:
|Executive Member from Hong Kong Journalists Association||1||Shirley Yam ( Vice-chairperson, HKJA)|
|Journalist invited by the Hong Kong Journalists Association||1||Au Ka Lun (Radio program host)
Fung Wai Kong (Columnist)
|Representative from Hong Kong Press Photographers Association||1||Tyrone Siu (Chairman, HKPPA)|
|Representative from Independent Commentators Association||1||Max Wong (Columnist)|
|Academics||2||Carol Lai (Associate Professor,
Akita International University, Japan)
Francis Lee(Associate Professor, School of Journalism and Communication, CUHK)
|Legal professionals||2||Karen Kong ( Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, HKU)
Chong Yiu-kwong (Convenor, Civil Human Right Front)
Guiding principles for investigation
Any editorial actions considered against:
- general news principles such as the importance, social consequence and timing of the content
- professed editorial policies of the involved organisation
- professional autonomy of a media worker
Who makes the complaint?
A complainant must be a contracted content provider including but not exclusively reporter, editor, photographer, commentator and columnist, of a local news organisation including but not exclusively newspaper, magazine, electronic media and network. He or she has been in the past 12 months paid to provide content, words or pictures, to the news organisation on a regular basis and being paid, word or picture.
Procedures handling complaints
- Receive complaints
l Must be named and in written format
l Must be the personal experience of the complainant
- Initial review
l The secretary initially contacts the complainant and report to the Committee if accept or not.
l The Committee forms a 3-member ad hoc group to deal with an accepted case
l The ad hoc group meets the complainant and hears his/ her evidence.
l The news organisation or person concerned will be given a month to response.
l The ad hoc group decides if there is a case and report to the Committee.
- Consideration and endorsement of an ad hoc group report
l The Committee studies and casts vote on the report in a formal meeting.
l Report will be submitted to the Executive Committee of Hong Kong Journalists Association for endorsement and established case of self censorship will be released.
- Release of verdict
l Established cases of self censorship will be release immediately.
l A case that cannot be established beyond doubt will be listed as case of concern.
l The Committee will report annually the number of cases received, handled, established cases and cases of concern. Details will be released for the latter two categories.