Hong Kong: IFJ report shines light on growing Hong Kong media diaspora

A new report released today by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reveals the significant challenges faced by self-exiled Hong Kong journalists and calls for greater international support for diaspora media. The IFJ joins its affiliates, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Communications Workers of America (CWA) Canada, Unifor and the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), in highlighting the collapse of media freedom in Hong Kong and the need for journalists in exile to continue delivering vital independent journalism to global audiences on Hong Kong and China.

The report, ‘Journalists in Exile; A Survey of Media Workers in the Hong Kong Diaspora’, features survey data and interviews with at least 90 Hong Kong media workers in the United Kingdom, Canada, Taiwan, the United States, and Australia. It was conducted for the IFJ by the newly-formed Association of Overseas Hong Kong Media Professionals (AOHKMP) and reveals the experiences of Hong Kong journalists and media workers forced overseas, particularly in the wake of the controversial Beijing-imposed National Security Law in 2020.

The report documents how a new Hong Kong diaspora community upward of 300,000 people is now forming as a result of clampdowns in the city. Those who have left include experienced members of civil society such as politicians, non-government organisation (NGO) workers, activists as well as journalists.

In conducting the research, AOHKMP estimated the number of journalists who have now fled Hong Kong as being in excess of 200, but potentially more with the outward flow continuing. As media outlets have shuttered out of fear and under the threat of legal charges, many journalists have been left with no other choice but to start new lives abroad. It said exiled journalists and newly-emerged media platforms face immense challenges to continue in their craft.

“Overall this survey paints a picture of an exiled media community facing multiple challenges combined with a motivation to maintain the tradition of a free Hong Kong media, albeit in exile,” said Steve Vines, a director of the AOHKMP.

The report presents an important assessment of the conditions, experiences and aspirations of Hong Kong’s growing media diaspora, including the impacts on their lives and careers and the fears that they have for family still living in Hong Kong should they continue to report critically from outside the country.

The survey found two-thirds of respondents were not working in the media industry after moving overseas. For the one-third who were able to continue working in the media industry, opportunities varied from country to country. Some were working at public broadcasters in the UK and Australia; some in Canada could find jobs in established local Chinese-language media; new smaller-scale diaspora media outlets were starting to emerge in new communities internationally and providing an opportunity for work; and some were working or wanting to work as freelancers or part-time journalists.

Pressing factors such as burnout, inadequate wages, struggles to make connections, language barriers, and a lack of knowledge or interest in local politics were impediments to many journalists to continue in their profession abroad.

The emergence of media outlets in the diaspora has proven there is another way, however. News outlets like The Points, HongKonger Station, and Green Bean Media are among dozens of emerging outlets that have vowed to continue coverage of Hong Kong and its people from abroad. The emergence of commentary from individual journalists and activists provides valuable insight into current events affecting Hongkongers in the city and beyond.

The IFJ has closely monitored press freedom in Hong Kong and China since 2008 and last year released a landmark report, The Story That Won’t Be Silenced: Hong Kong Freedom of Expression Report 2022, detailing the destruction of civil liberties and press freedom responsible for Hong Kong’s media diaspora.

As part of its ongoing support to Hong Kong’s media diaspora, IFJ is working with its affiliates globally to engage and support journalists making their way at establishing new lives.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “As the crackdown on media freedom in Hong Kong forces journalists to seek safety in the UK, government must act now to ensure necessary funding is available to support transition and integration. We welcome today’s report by the IFJ including recommendations on training and will continue our work supporting HongKonger journalists.”

Adam Portelli, MEAA Deputy Chief Executive, said: “The crackdown on independent media in Hong Kong has been one of the most visible signs of the collapse of democracy there.  The Australian government must support press freedom in our region by keeping visa schemes open to these human rights defenders who can no longer safely work in their home country.”

CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon praised the report and said the media union will do all it can to support the recommendations. “The loss of press freedom and human rights in Hong Kong is appalling and we encourage the Canadian government to provide visas for Hong Kong journalists and support those now working in Canada.”

Lana Payne, Unifor President, said:“As Canada’s largest media union, Unifor stands with the IFJ and commends their ongoing efforts in highlighting the struggles facing journalists forced to flee their home countries due to government repression and attacks on civil liberties and press freedoms. Labour unions, governments, community and media organizations, all have a pivotal role to play to ensure that journalists that have chosen countries such as Canada, in which to settle and rebuild their lives in safety, can continue telling their stories and holding those in power to account.”

The IFJ said: “We hope this report and its recommendations can encourage some necessary conversations and inspire strategies and innovative programs from governments, unions, funders and media development organisations to support Hong Kong’s journalists and diaspora media outlets endeavouring to deliver independent reporting on greater China and to keep their story going.”

Read the full report here. A copy of the report recommendations is available here.

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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