The IFJ and its affiliates have watched the dramatic collapse of press freedom and independent media in Hong Kong over the past two years since Bejing imposed its so-called National Security Law. At least 12 independent news organisations, including the widely circulated Apple Daily and Stand News, have permanently closed, with many media workers and activists arrested, threatened and imprisoned amid a brutal crackdown on civil society and the media.
The IFJ’s report; “The Story That Won’t Be Silenced: Hong Kong Freedom of Expression Report” details the litany of legal and legislative strategies the Hong Kong government has weaponised against free and independent media, and documents the journalists, media practitioners and news outlets still endeavouring to report on Hong Kong through repression.
IFJ has this year taken up publication of the annual report which normally would be published by IFJ affiliate, the Hong Kong Journalist Association (HKJA), which remains under intense scrutiny by Beijing.
At least 21 free and independent media organisations, both inside Hong Kong and around the world, have been launched since the introduction of the National Security Law following local media closures targeted or threatened by the law. Media practitioners from closed outlets have been able to persevere despite their delineation from what officials in the Special Administrative Region find acceptable. They are continuing to tell the story through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and subscriber-based service Patreon.
The report, written by Hong Kong journalists, follows ongoing IFJ research globally on China’s growing international media influence in Asia, Africa and the Americas. “The China Network; Inside China’s Global Media Mission in Asia, Africa and Latin America” reveals the project of media manipulation is central to the outward projection of China’s influence and activities.
The IFJ has had dedicated programs monitoring press freedom in Hong Kong and China since the partial liberalisation of media freedom following the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Since 2019, the IFJ has expanded the scope of its research and documented China’s increasing media influence and impact. The IFJ continues to seek stronger engagement from governments, news outlets, unions and media practitioners on media issues to solve broader industry challenges for media sustainability.
Key Findings and recommendations in the report
- The IFJ and its affiliates globally unanimously called for recognition of the urgent situation facing journalists and other human rights defenders in Hong Kong and calls on governments to support journalists seeking to leave Hong Kong via humanitarian visas or special visa programs.
- It notes the continuing exodus of journalists and news outlets to countries where they can analyse Hong Kong affairs without fear of reprisal and expresses grave concern at the loss of independent on-the-ground reporting that will make it harder for the global community and Hong Kong’s own citizens to gain an accurate picture of political, economic, legal and social developments in the territory.
- It calls on the international community to continue to condemn the media offensive conducted by the governments of China and Hong Kong that began under the cloak of the Covid-19 pandemic, since the introduction of the National Security Law and through abuse of existing laws on crimes such as sedition to intimidate independent media.
- It says both the Chinese and Hong Kong governments have violated obligations under international law to protect the rights guaranteed to Hong Kongers under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is ratified in the territory and enshrined in the Basic Law.
- The IFJ urges the Hong Kong government to enact laws to empower people’s right to free flow of information, including the UN Human Rights Committee's General Comment No. 34 which deals with the right to freedom of expression under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- The IFJ urges the Hong Kong Government fully respect the Hong Kong people’s ethos of freedom and adhere to The Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.
- Despite the ongoing influence of China over Chinese diaspora media, IFJ said new Hong Kong and Chinese language media outlets are emerging in Taiwan, the UK, Canada, Australia and the US and present an important alternate narrative of China’s story.
- The IFJ calls on international media and media organisations to support their Hong Kong counterparts and continue to advocate to their governments and authorities against Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China's repression of the press, freedom of expression and the right to know.
The IFJ said: “The International Federation of Journalists calls on governments around the world to condemn the destruction of independent media in Hong Kong and to support journalists and media practitioners fleeing from an increasingly unsafe working environment. We continue to condemn the implementation of the 2020 National Security Law, and the more recent use of archaic, colonial-era sedition laws to persecute media practitioners and journalists. This is a critical story that should not be silenced ahead of the CCP Congress.”
Read the report: