Hong Kong: Media restricted from covering handover and inauguration events

At least 10 local and international news organisations have been barred from covering the inauguration of incoming Chief Secretary John Lee and other events during the twenty-fifth anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China on July 1. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), in condemning the obstruction of the press.

The next Chief Executive of Hong Kong, John Lee, speaks during a press conference inside the Central Government Office on June 19, 2022 in Hong Kong. Credit: Vernon Yuen / NurPhoto via AFP

On June 16, applications for media outlets seeking to access the Hong Kong Chief Secretary inauguration and handover anniversary events closed, but at least 10 organisations’ registrations were denied.

The Hong Kong based independent news and photography outlets restrictedfrom reporting the events on July 1 include InMedia, Hong Kong Free Press, Photographic Society of Hong Kong, and Truth Media Hong Kong. International media, including Japan’s Nikkei, Asahi Shimbun and Kyodo News, Taiwan’s CTV, United States’ Getty Images, and the European Pressphoto Agency have also not been invited to attend.

July 1, 2022, marks 25 years since the United Kingdom transferred authority over Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China. The day’s events will involve the inauguration of John Lee as Hong Kong’s new Chief Secretary, succeeding Carrie Lam, as well as the rumoured attendance of China’s President Xi Jinping.

The Hong Kong Information Services Department (ISD) invited specific television broadcasters to nominate up to 20 reporters and other select news outlets to nominate a maximum of 10 reporters to cover the events. According to InMedia, at previous official handover ceremonies, the media did not need direct invitations to report on events.

The ISD cited pandemic concerns, security risks and venue constraints as reasons for heavily limiting the number of permitted media organisations. However, the Hong Kong Free Press said there is no record of security concerns at similar recent events.

Despite the Hong Kong government’s assertions that press freedom is intact, media workers in the region have continuously experienced arrests, newsroom raids and closures. The IFJ’s report, ‘Lights Out: Is this the End of Press Freedom in Hong Kong?’, found that Hong Kong’s free media has rapidly deteriorated since the 2020 enactment of the National Security Law.

On June 10, the independent investigative news agency FactWirebecame the fourth major Hong Kong news outlet to close in 2022, stating an increasingly controlled and patriotic media environment. Media outlets, Apple Daily, Stand News and Citizen news, also shuttered earlier this year.

The HKJA said, [HKJA] urges the city’s authorities to be more inclusive by accepting applications from media organisations keen to attend, so that those with a considerable readership can fulfil their duty in keeping the public informed by reporting on Hong Kong’s historic moments.

The IFJ said, The restrictions on media coverage at the inauguration of Chief Executive John Lee and handover anniversary events further curb press freedom in Hong Kong. The IFJ urges Hong Kong’s authorities to allow free and unfettered access to both local and international media at all events in the public interest.”

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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