Apple Daily, a closed Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper, and founder Jimmy Lai win press freedom award


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Jailed Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai and staff at his now-closed Apple Daily have received a prestigious press freedom award from the World Association of News Editors.

Apple Daily, formerly Hong Kong’s most popular pro-democracy newspaper, collapsed in June after authorities froze its assets under a national security law imposed by Beijing to curb dissent.

Jimmy Lai. File photo: Kelly Ho / HKFP.

Lai, the newspaper’s outspoken founder, and several senior executives and editors were arrested for “foreign collusion” over Apple Daily’s support for international sanctions against China.

Warren Fernandez, president of the World Editors Forum, said this year’s Golden Pen of Freedom award underscored the “fears and challenges” of journalists facing growing restrictions in Hong Kong, a regional media hub.

“The imprisonment of a publisher, the arrest of an editor and his senior colleagues, the closing of a newsroom and the shutting down of a media headline – the 2021 Golden Pen Award recognizes and reflects on all these elements. “Fernandez said in a virtual ceremony Wednesday.

Apple Daily was known for its harsh criticism of Chinese leaders, and Beijing has made no secret of its desire to see the tabloid silenced.

Sebastien Lai, receiving the award on his father’s behalf, said there would be “fewer and fewer people shining a light on these dark corners” given the shutdown of Apple Daily and the ongoing crackdown on journalism In the region.

In a statement announcing the award, the World Association of News Editors called Lai “a vocal critic of Beijing’s control over Hong Kong and a leading supporter of the pro-democracy movement.”

Established in 1961, the Golden Pen of Freedom is an annual award that recognizes outstanding contributions to the defense and promotion of press freedom.

In authoritarian China, all local media are censored and state-controlled, while foreign media face significant barriers to reporting and visa denials.

Hong Kong has long served as a regional media hub, though it has fallen in press freedom rankings in recent years as Beijing asserts greater control over the city.

The crackdown on local media has intensified following huge and often violent protests for democracy two years ago and the subsequent imposition of the security law.

An Apple Daily supporter holds a copy of its final edition in front of the newspaper’s headquarters in Tseung Kwan O on June 24, 2021, before the newspaper was forced to shut down following accusations it violated the law on national security. Archive photo: Studio Incendo.

International media maintains a strong presence in the city with organizations such as the Financial Times, AFP, CNN, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg having their regional headquarters in Hong Kong.

But the security law and crackdown on dissent shook nerves.

Last month, an Australian correspondent for The Economist was denied a visa – the fourth foreign journalist to be denied a visa without explanation since 2018.

The New York Times moved its Asian information center to South Korea last year, citing both security law and multiple visa delays.

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