Over 50% Journalists Think that Press Freedom Has Deteriorated Since the Handover

Over 50% journalists think that press freedom has deteriorated since the handover with 30% admit having committed self-censorship
Hong Kong Journalists Association calls for resoluteness of the profession
            A recent survey conducted by the Hong Kong Journalists Association finds that 58.4% of journalists think press freedom in Hong Kong has deteriorated since the handover, mainly as a result of self-censorship, and secondly, due to the government’s tighter grip on the flow of information. About 60% of the press interviewed think that self-censorship is more serious now than 10 years ago as evidenced by the recent tendency of the press to downplay either negative news of the Central government (mentioned by about 20% of respondents from the media) or the news which is second guessed at what the Central government would take as sensitive issues (also about 20% reporting this problem). This is followed by the same trend of self-censorship, only towards media bosses and their related interests.
            Among the interviewees, 30% admit having committed self-censorship over the past 12 months. 40% know either their colleagues or supervisors do so. The Hong Kong Journalists Association is shocked by these findings. As self-censorship is not “socially desirable” activities, we can justifiably believe that the real situation might even be worse.
            The Hong Kong Journalists Association urges members of the trade to stay unwavering with their duty, be fair, impartial and fearless in performing their role as journalists. News reporting and editing should be done purely according to professional standard.
            Only 13.1% of the respondents regard self-censorship as the major problem they are facing. The others think that being superficial in reporting is a bigger problem (27.6%). This is followed by a concern over low salary and insufficient welfare provision of the journalists (16.5%) and 16.3% suggest that the press is becoming seriously sensational.
            The views of the general public differ from those of the trade. To the public, the problem of highest concern is the lack of accuracy (20%). However, even more people (45.5%) respond with “don’t know” or “no comment”. This shows that regardless of their receiving news and information from the media, members of the public in fact do not know enough about the inner-working of the media.
            There are issues on which the public and the press share similar views, differing only in terms of the degree. For instance, both (53.7% of the public interviewed and 46.2% of the journalists) opine that in comparison to 10 years ago, the government is now more influential towards the press; and the press practise more self-censorship. They also share the view that self-censorship can be seen in the press attempts to whitewash bad news about the Central government and to second guess what the Central government would take as sensitive issues.
            This shows that concern over government’s influence over the press and the press’ self-censorship has come to the surface even among the public who are not familiar with how the media operates, as they now notice respective changes in the press.
            The Hong Kong Journalists Association is concerned that with the negative views that the general public might have of the professional ethics of the press, it would be more difficult for the profession to gain support in its campaign for press freedom. Members of the profession will have to work hard to regain the confidence of the Hong Kong people.
            The survey was commissioned by the Hong Kong Journalists Association and was carried out by the Public Governance Programme at the Lingnan University. It was conducted in 2 parts; a self-completed questionnaire for journalists, and a telephone survey targeting members of the general public. The journalists’ survey, for which 1484 questionnaires were distributed with 506 of them returned (rate of response being 34.12%), was taken in January. The second took form of random phone interviews to 734 individuals with a response rate of 47.1%. With a confidence level of 95%, the random error was approximately ±3.5%.
            Full report of the survey can be downloaded here.
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