The launch took place a few days after Jimmy Lai, founder of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, was convicted of fraud for allegedly breaching terms of the lease of his company’s HQ – a verdict widely condemned as based on trumped-up charges. Having already spent 20 months in prison, Lai is awaiting trial on more serious national security charges.
Many of the journalists, gathered at the meeting, deplored the steady decline of what was once an independent vibrant media and the use a new National Security Law to shutter independent media, stifle press freedom and restrict the freedom of information. Other prominent journalists have also been charged and await court appearance.
Among many objectives agreed, the AOHKMP pledged to focus international attention on the harassment, jailing and denial of freedom to operate for journalists based in Hong Kong and to work for the restoration of freedom of expression. One of its main aims would also be to provide mutual assistance for professional media workers from Hong Kong who have relocated overseas.
Director Steve Vines said “We have founded this association to take advantage of living overseas in countries where freedom of expression prevails to highlight the ever-growing repression of media freedom in Hong Kong. We do so in the knowledge that serious jeopardy faces anyone raising these issues in Hong Kong. And we intend to become a focus for mutual cooperation between members of the Hong Kong diaspora media community”.
IFJ Treasurer Jim Boumelha conveyed the warm greetings of the world organisation and pledged full solidarity saying: “The future seems bleak and we are all well aware of the new regime of fear in Hong Kong. But today this launch is important for those Hong Kong journalists who continue to fight day in day out to do their job as journalists. We applaud them for their determination in continuing to tell their stories under horrendous conditions, and their resilience in preserving their spirit of freedom. This is the spirit that journalists all over the world applaud every day and we pledge to give them support and do our utmost to stand shoulder to shoulder with them at every stage of their fight.”