Hong Kong: New polling shows press freedom dropping to record low

The level of media freedom in Hong Kong for media workers has plunged to a record low after the imposition of the national security law, according to a poll released by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) on May 3. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges Hong Kong authorities to stop targeting journalists and media organisations and to respect freedom of the press.

A billboard (top R) referring to the incoming National Security Law is seen beyond a Chinese national flag being held up by a pro-China activist during a rally in Hong Kong on June 26, 2020. Credit: Anthony WALLACE/ AFP

On May 3, the HKJA published its Hong Kong Press Freedom Index for 2020, which showed that 91 percent of the 367 journalists surveyed agree that press freedom in Hong Kong has worsened over the past year.The press freedom situation in Hong Kong plummeted from a rating of 40.9 in 2018 to 36.2 points in 2019 and to a record low of 32.1 points in 2020, according to the index.

Approximately 85% of journalists who took part in the survey are concerned about the suppression of press freedom by the Hong Kong government, while 40 percent of them felt pressure from their superiors when covering politically sensitive issues, such as Hong Kong independence.

The vast majority of journalists surveyed have rated the national security law, which was implemented on June 30, 2020, as harmful to press freedom in Hong Kong. The legislation, imposed by Beijing, punishes actions deemed by the authorities as secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces with heavy penalties, including life imprisonment.

Several events taking place after the sweeping legislation took effect also reflected the decline of Hong Kong’s press freedom, such as the police raid on Next Digital media group’s premises in August 2020. Law enforcement’s unilateral decision to amend rules for issuing press passes and the conviction of freelance producer Bao Choy Yuk-ling, as a result of her investigative reporting were other demonstrations of the authorities’ efforts to undermine press freedom in the city.’

The HKJA said: “Freedom of the Press in Hong Kong has greatly deteriorated in the past year.  After the enactment of Hong Kong National Security Law, the Government continued to suppress the news media.

The IFJ said:The national security law should not be used as a tool by the authorities to punish or intimidate journalists and media outlets. The Hong Kong government must stop contravening international standards and respect freedom of the press as guaranteed by the city’s Basic Law.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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