The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has received a formal reply from Hong Kong’s Chief Executive of Hong Kong responding to the call by 58 international media and human rights organisations demanding a stronger stance to defend press freedom in Hong Kong. While the Office of the Chief Executive affirmed its commitment to press freedom in its letter to the IFJ, it failed to give any concrete plan of action to put this commitment into effect nor did it respond directly to the series of incidents highlighted by the IFJ.
The IFJ recently catalogued a series of press freedom violations incidents in Hong Kong between June 2013 and February 2014. On March 7, the IFJ and its affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) initiated a global campaign through IFEX, the global network for defending and promoting free expression, calling on the Chief Executive to act immediately to defend press freedom. In just three days, 56 international media and human rights organizations cosigned the letter. The signatories included Reporters without Boarders, Freedom House, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and the World Press Freedom Committee (see full list here).
The Office of the Chief Executive responded on March 25, confirming that the Government sees freedom of the press as a fundamental right of the people of Hong Kong.
The Office said: “The Government is firmly committed to protecting freedom of the press. It is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and an important core value underlying Hong Kong’s success and continued prosperity. Our aim is to maintain an environment conducive to the operation of a free and active press”.
The Office said police acted swiftly in arresting a number of suspects in relation to the meat cleaver attack on Kevin Lau, former chief editor of Ming Pao newspaper on February 23. It also said the Law Reform Commission had now embarked on a comprehensive comparative study of freedom of information laws in overseas jurisdictions – in direct response to the HKJA’s demand that the CEO stand by his commitment to bring these laws in.
The IFJ said: “We are pleased to receive the response of the Office of the Chief Executive and hear the Office’s commitment to ‘no tolerance’ towards violence. However, the Office did not set out any concrete plans and did not state publicly to Hong Kong citizens that it will defend press freedom, particularly in relation to the two suspects in the Kevin Lau case, who have accused Hong Kong police of extracting their confessions under duress. There are serious cases of press freedom violations where investigation has been inadequately conducted and no prosecutions have been secured.
“The IFJ and our affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association call on the Chief Executive to take the next step to seriously set out a concrete schedule for enacting freedom of information legislation, instead of repeating the same rhetoric that has been delivered in the past.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950
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