January 21, 2021

Press Freedom

Hong Kong

Press Freedom Update Sept. 25: Hong Kong

This week’s OPC Press Freedom update focuses on China as news media in Hong Kong protest a new police policy giving law enforcement the power to choose which journalists can cover protest in the city.

Press Freedom: China

World Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders)

  • China ranks 136th among 180 countries

RSF ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists.

Global Freedom Report (Freedom House)

  • China scores 10 out of 100; Rating – Not Free

Freedom House annually rates people’s access to political rights and civil liberties.

10 Most Censored Countries (The Committee to Protect Journalists)

  • China ranks No. 5

CPJ’s annual list is based on censorship tactics used by authoritarian governments – imprisonment, repressive laws, surveillance of journalists and restrictions on internet/social media.

New Police Order Is Another Blow to Hong Kong Press Freedom

Press clubs and media organizations in Hong Kong continue to feel the pressure from Beijing as they protest the latest policy change aimed at curbing press freedom.

Hong Kong Police announced a new guideline redefining who can be considered a “media representative.” They include journalists registered with the government and reporters from “internationally recognized” outlets. Press credentials issued by local journalists groups in Hong Kong will no longer be accepted as accredited media.

The new policy triggered widespread criticism from press clubs, press unions and journalism schools.

This could pave the way for the implementation of an official licensing system, seriously interfering with press freedoms,” said the Hong Kong Journalism Association, which represents six other organizations advocating for press freedom in the city.

Journalists also believe the move will sideline freelance reporters and student journalists, many of whom captured some of the most compelling images and stories of the recent pro-democracy protests last year in Hong Kong.

“Journalism students are the future of our industry,” said HKJA chairman Chris Yeung. “Many impressive photos and footage that revealed police brutality against protesters were taken by online media or student journalists, who are reporting on the very front line,” he said. “Removing their presence will severely reduce the media’s supervision of power.”

The Foreign Correspondents Club, Hong Kong, noted that the new rule is another in the series of events undermining press freedom since the new national security law was implemented on July 1.

“This move is another step in the erosion of Hong Kong’s once cherished press freedom as it would give the police — rather than reporters and editors — the power to determine who covers the police,” said the FCC.

The FCC found three ways in which press freedom loses under the new policy, which was established without any input from Hong Kong’s journalism community:

  • It undercuts the local journalist organizations whose membership cards have been routinely recognized and respected – the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association.
  • The new scheme would give police officers the power to decide what foreign media outlets are “internationally recognized and reputable.
  •  The policy would be a serious blow for freelancers and student reporters — two groups of journalists who have provided some of the most compelling reporting from last year’s protests and police actions.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the FCC should “immediately stop meddling with Hong Kong affairs on the pretext of press freedom.”

The number of pro-democracy protests have declined in 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings and the introduction of the new national security law.