Hong Kong journalists have expressed serious concern about the effect that the new chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, will have on press freedom. They also reported that press freedom had declined under Donald Tsang. These were the main findings of a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) in April 2012. The results were published in the HKJA’s 2012 annual report on freedom of expression, which was released today (July 2nd) – one day after Hong Kong marked the 15th anniversary of the 1997 handover.
The survey found that 60 percent of 663 respondents thought that press freedom would be restricted to a greater or lesser extent during Leung Chun-ying’s administration. They were in particular worried that the new government would impose more restrictions on the media, that there would be heightened pressure from Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong and that Mr Leung’s government would legislate Basic Law article 23 national security legislation.
They called on Mr Leung to refrain from legislating national security laws until universal suffrage is in place, improve the way that spot news is disseminated, draft a freedom of information law and provide less official footage and hold fewer off-the-record briefings.
These – apart from national security legislation – are all problems that arose during Donald Tsang’s seven years as chief executive. The views of survey respondents on Mr Tsang’s approach to press freedom are highlighted in the report. Fully 87 percent of respondents thought that Hong Kong now enjoys less freedom than when Mr Tsang first became chief executive in 2005. They pointed in particular to tighter government control over the flow of information, self-censorship in the industry and interference from the government in Beijing or from Beijing’s Liaison Office.
Respondents were particularly worried about the suppression of press freedom during the visit to Hong Kong of vice-premier Li Keqiang in August 2011 and infringement of press freedom during the chief executive election in the first quarter of 2012. They were also concerned about Liaison Office pressure on the Hong Kong Economic Journal over its election coverage, and the move by the Sing Pao newspaper to alter a column written by commentator Lau Yui-siu.
The HKJA’s 2012 annual report covers all these issues, giving details of how they have eroded press freedom in Hong Kong. It examines possible threats from Leung Chun-ying, even though he has signed an HKJA press freedom declaration. The report also covers Donald Tsang’s legacy in the area of press freedom, as well as dangers from a proposed anti-stalking law, the failure of the government to endorse the issue of new free-to-air TV licences, the appointment of an administrative officer and the sacking of two phone-in hosts at RTHK, and the controversy over ATV’s false report on former president Jiang Zemin’s death. The final chapter examines disturbing developments in Hong Kong’s neighbour, Macau.
For more details of this report, please go to our website or contact the HKJA’s chairperson Mak Yin-ting or its general secretary, Chong Hiu-yeung, on 25910692.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Survey: Journalists Worry About Leung Chun-ying Rule
Survey Period: 18/4 – 4/5
l Questionnaires distributed in newsrooms by HKJA staff member and fellow reporters in different media outlets.
l E-Questionnaires sent to HKJA freelance members.
l Hong Kong Press Photographers Association also sent e-questionnaires to their members on behalf of HKJA.
Target: Reporters, Editors, Photographers, Editorial Managements
No. of questionnaires and e-questionnaires distributed: 1,154
No. of questionnaires returned: 663
* The actual number of respondents is indicated within parenthesis after the question.
- In your view, will Hong Kong press freedom be restricted/improved during C.Y. Leung’s administration? (N = 663)
|A bit restricted||144||21.7%|
|A bit improved||16||2.4%|
|Don’t know/Hard to say||204||30.8%|
- What, in your view, will be the most serious problem facing the industry during C.Y. Leung’s administration? (N= 395, only for respondents who believe that press freedom will be restricted answered, they are allowed to select more than one option)
|1||More restrictions by the government||206||52.2%|
|2||Heightened pressure from the Liaison Office||172||43.5%|
|3||Legislating Basic Law Article 23||142||35.9%|
|4||Self-censorship will be more common||90||22.8%|
|5||Media will be tamed by government||76||19.2%|
|6||Conglomerates will ‘punish’ unfriendly media||19||4.8%|
- In your view, what should C. Y. Leung do in order to safeguard press freedom as one of our core values? (N = 663, respondents are allowed to select more than one option)
|1||No legislation of BL 23 before universal suffrage||390||58.8%|
|2||Improve spot news dissemination mechanism||242||36.5%|
|3||Draft Freedom of Information Act.||219||33.0%|
|4||Less official footages and ‘off the record’ briefings||179||27.0%|