An estimated six thousand people joined International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) affiliate, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) in a march to the Hong Kong Chief Executive’s Office on Sunday, February 23, to demand Leung Chun-ying keep to his election promise to defend press freedom. The IFJ this week calls on Leung Chun-ying to formally answer to those concerns.
Speaking at the “Free Speech – Free Hong Kong“ rally, HKJA Chairperson Sham Yee-Lan said that the muzzling of the city's press had become increasingly rampant – as documented by the IFJ. In her address, the HKJA chair outlined an alarming environment where “critical headlines are removed, where pictures are edited out of the press for being too sensitive and where liberal scholars are barred from appearing in some papers.”
“The trend is very clear, somebody wants to control the media, to punish disobedient journalists,” she said. “Unless the people of Hong Kong stand against this treatment of the press, the next generation in Hong Kong will face a society where facts are distorted.”
The HKJA warned that freedom of speech and many other basic rights currently held by citizens of Hong Kong would be diminished in future if the spate of attacks on press freedom went unchecked.they allowed these attacks on press freedom to stand.
On February 14, the IFJ released a catalogue of press freedom violations in Hong Kong dating back nine months. The list of incidents between June 2013 and February 2014 paints a concerning picture of constricting press freedom in Hong Kong with the IFJ receiving reports of incidents at least every month over the past nine months. The list documents cases ranging from physical attacks and death threats through to attempts to influence media independence by economic forces and direct political interference.
A number of media industry representatives and journalists spoke at the rally including former radio host Li Wei-ling, who shared her experience of having her Commercial Radio of Hong Kong contract controversially terminated on February 12.
Joining the HKJA in the march and holding the “Free Speech – Free Hong Kong” banner were the Journalism Educators for Press Freedom, Ming Pao Staff Concern Group, RTHK Programme Staff Union, Next Media Trade Union and the Independent Commentators Association.
Article 27 of the Basic Law, which functions as the constitution of Hong Kong, and Section 16 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance says that Hong Kong enjoys freedom of opinion.
“The IFJ is deeply disturbed by the pattern of attacks in Hong Kong and we call on its Chief Executive to listen to the concerns of media workers who have been forced to take their voices to the streets for response,” the IFJ said.
The IFJ urges the Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and its Legislative Councillors to take immediate action to halt this concerning trend and to ensure that the basic principles of press freedom are not threatened further.
See more photos of the rally here.