Hong Kong’s Press Freedom Index is now at its lowest since records began in 2013. According to the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) annual survey, the press freedom mark is now 47.1, down by 0.9 points since last year. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the HKJA is demanding immediate action to restore press freedom in Hong Kong.
On April 11, the HKJA released its annual Hong Kong Press Freedom Index, which is based on survey. The survey findings are numbered between 0 and 10, the lower the number, the more common occurrence it is. The findings included:
A) The responses from the general public showed that people perceive the local media to have doubts and hesitations when criticising the Central Government (3.8), compared to criticising business tycoons (4.4).
B) Responses from journalists indicated that there has been an increases in instances of supervisors and management editing or deleting articles and news reports, as well as rejecting story ideas for fear of offending the Central Government. This rating has steadily decline from 7.1 in 2013, to 6.2 this year.
C) In assessing the press freedom situation in Hong Kong, journalists said that the growing influence from the Central Government over the HKSAR government is one of the three biggest factors negatively impacting press freedom. This year 50% of journalists said the government influence was the biggest factor, an increase from 38% in 2017. The other two key factors were self-censorship by the media and media owners and the Central Government.
D) Over 90% of journalists said that the implementation of Basic Law Article 23 would negatively impact and damage press freedom in Hong Kong. In contrast, only 60% of respondents from the public sector said the same.
E) 63% of media respondents said that the increasing emphasis on the ‘one country two system’ ideology made them increasingly uncomfortable reporting dissenting voices. The survey also found that the rating on legal intimidation, physical violence at work and access to information had improved over the past 12 months.
At the launch, the HKJA urged the China Central Government to respect press freedom and resist exercising its power in Hong Kong. HKJA also said that the Basic Law Article 23 legislation should not be enacted, as there is still not consensus on the issue. HKJA said: “Results of our survey show that journalists and the public fear legislative work would be a severe blow to press freedom. Freedom of the press and information is one of the four pillars of Hong Kong’s success. We urge the Government not to do anything that will erode that pillar.”
The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “Press freedom is the cornerstone of a liberal and democratic society. The decline of press freedom in Hong Kong is a worrying trend that is having immediate effects on Hong Kong democracy.”
The IFJ joins the HKJA is urging the Hong Kong Government to defend press freedom as enshrined in Basic Law of Hong Kong.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries
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