Hong Kong: Government proposes new censorship law and clamps down on media independence

A week after Hong Kong’s public broadcaster, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), published the new partnership with the Chinese Media Group, Hong Kong’s commerce secretary Edward Yau announced the government would be pulling films in breach of the National Security Law. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned by the declining media independence and free flow of information in Hong Kong.

Four Hong Kong pro-democracy activists hold a banner and placards reading "No democracy and human rights, no national security" and "Free all political prisoners". Credit: Yan ZHAO / AFP

Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam announced on August 17, the partnership between RTHK and Chinese Media Group – the parent company of China state media outlets, CCTV and China National Radio. Lam explained the purpose of the partnership is to provide viewers with a “thorough understanding of the struggle and development of the Communist Party of China and nurture a stronger sense of patriotism.” 

Despite international media organisations' concerns that the new partnership breaches RTHK’s charter codifying the organisation’s editorial independence and impartiality, RTHK maintains that the partnership is in line with the charter. 

On August 24, Edward Yau also announced a new retroactive censorship law allowing authorities to revoke the certification of films based on national security grounds. The proposed law strengthens the guidelines published by authorities in June, allowing the government to pull movies deemed in contravention of the National Security Law. The maximum punishment for showing an unlicensed film will be three years of imprisonment and a HKD 1,000,000 (USD 128,601) fine.

Hong Kong’s National Security Law has come under considerable criticism since it was introduced last year after targeting journalists and activists through broadly worded offences, including secession, subversion, terrorist activities and collusion with a foreign country.

The IFJ said: “It is clear, the intrusion of the Chinese government on independent and critical journalism in Hong Kong is continuing under the pretence of security and patriotism. The IFJ urges the Hong Kong government to review the use of the National Security Law and the Chinese government's influence on Hong Kong media.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

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

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