Hong Kong journalists’ duties cut without reason

The International Federation of Journalists expresses concerns for four Hong Kong journalists who had their columns reduced without reason, and for a fifth journalist who received threats in recent weeks.

In mid-May, the South China Morning Post, a major English newspaper in Hong Kong, issued letters to four prominent journalists, Philip Bowring, Kevin Rafferty, Stephen Vines and Frank Ching, informing them that their regular columns would be reduced to monthly circulation. The letters from the Editor-in-Chief did not offer any specific details or reasons for the change.

Stephen Vines told the IFJ that there was no reason offered in his letter, but that he would now write on economic issues. Previously, Vines wrote about political and social issues. He added: “the column size has been frequently reduced and then was moved to every Saturday. A dead day for the paper as not many people read it on Saturdays.”

The recent changes come after two pro-democracy columnists received similar treatment in September 2014, just before the start of the Occupy Movement. One of the columnists, Edward Chin ultimately had his column cancelled.

In a separate incident, Chris Wat said that her family were receiving death threats after she defended <st1:place w:st="on">Hong Kong</st1:place> police in her column. The threats came after Wat, a pro-government columnist, wrote an article defending the actions of police after they arrested a disabled man. The Hong Kong police were accused of not following due process and undermined important evidence which favored to the accused during the arrest, following which a complaint was lodged. Wat drew strong criticism from disability groups and her home address along with a death threat was posted online.

The IFJ Asia Pacific office said: “Threats and intimidation are increasingly becoming tools of suppression against freedom of expression. Journalists should not face threats in any form, as they work to weaken press freedom across the country.”

We call on the <st1:place w:st="on">Hong Kong</st1:place> to investigate the death threats to Chris Wat and her family. We also urge all media personnel to stay firm and defend press freedom.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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