Press freedom on the steady decline in Hong Kong

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) in calling on the government of Hong Kong to enact Freedom of Information legislation, as was pledged by Leung Chun-Ying during his 2012 Chief Executive Election campaign.

According to a survey conducted by the HKJA, along with a number of Hong Kong academics, Hong Kong’s Press Freedom Index declined to by 0.6 48.8 for the general public and by 3.1 to 38.9 for media workers in 2014. The index ranges from 0 to 100 and the survey was conducted in January, 2015. The HKJA believe that the decline in press freedom is due to the declining effectiveness of the media to act as a watchdog over the last year.

The survey garnered, 1035 general public responses and 51 percent believed that press freedom has worsened in 2014. While of the 537 responses from media workers, 90 percent said press freedom had declined. Only 1 percent believed it has improved in the past year. Journalist responses and responses from the general public also differed in other areas of the survey, with journalists more dissatisfied with press freedom. When asked to rank press freedom, (0 being very dissatisfied and 10 being very satisfied), the average responses from journalists was 0.6, whereas for the general public it was 4.4. Journalists also believed that self-censorship was more common than the general public.

Journalists and the general public were more closely aligned with their responses on violence against journalists. When asked to rank (10 being very common and 0 being not at all) how common incidents involving extra-legal intimidation or physical violence, the average ranking for general public responses was 5.2 and for journalists it was 5.5. 90 percent of journalists believed that the number of attacks on colleagues had increased during 2014.

On the attitude of Hong Kong government officials, including the chief executive, to media inquiries, the rating for journalist respondents declined from 3.1 in 2013 to 2.6 in the recent survey, with 10 meaning that officials were very truthful and 0 meaning they absolutely avoided inquiries. A total of 83% of the journalist interviewees gave rates of 4 or below, and 71% agreed that the Hong Kong government was one of the sources of press freedom suppression. Only 6% disagreed.

Sham Yee-Ian, HKJA Chairperson said that the survey highlights the decline of press freedom in Hong Kong and that freedom of information legislation is an absolute necessity to ensure the public and journalists have a right to access information held by the government and public bodies. She also urged people to fight together with the HKJA to defend press freedom and other core values cherished by Hong Kong people.

The IFJ Asia-Pacific office said: “The steady decline of press freedom in Hong Kong is a worrying trend that highlights the challenges that journalists and media workers continue to face in their work. The government of Hong Kong must work to ensure the safety of journalists as well as legislate a freedom of information bill, as promised during their election campaign.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 134 countries

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