Fewer Hong Kongers trust public broadcaster RTHK as fears for press freedom ‘come true’ – survey
Fewer Hong Kongers expressed confidence in public broadcaster RTHK, a study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found, as local media scholars said initial press freedom concerns under of the national security law imposed by Beijing “have come true”.
In the Digital News Report 2022 published on Wednesday, the Oxford University institute found that 53% of 2,010 Hong Kong residents surveyed in late January and early February said they trusted RTHK.
The figure marked a 6% drop from a year ago, when 59% of Hong Kong respondents expressed confidence in the government-funded media organization. It represents a further decline from 63% in 2020.
RTHK, which underwent a government-mandated editorial overhaul last year, was the only Hong Kong media organization listed in the study that saw a decline in the proportion of respondents expressing confidence.
Trust in other media brands “has increased somewhat”, the annual report says, while the institute found that 41% of Hong Kong respondents said they trust news in general – a stable result compared to 40% last year.
In the report’s overview of the media landscape in Hong Kong, China University (CUHK) journalism scholars Francis Lee, Michael Chan and Chen Hsuan-ting described the city’s press freedom as facing a “unprecedented tension”.
They cited National Security Police raids and arrests in the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and the now-disbanded independent Stand News last year. They also cited the subsequent closure of another independent platform, Citizen News, in January. Academics said the closures had resulted in more than 1,000 job losses and caused journalists to think about “how they can do their job under the new rules”.
“Initial concerns that the National Security Law enacted in 2020 would suppress critical media coverage have come true,” the CUHK scholars wrote.
The study found that the proportion of Hong Kong respondents consuming other popular online outlets did not increase significantly after the closure of Apple Daily and Stand News, although the site’s reach d independent information InMedia has grown from 4% to 9% over the past year. .
Director of CUHK’s School of Journalism and Communication, Francis Lee, told HKFP on Wednesday that the online survey was just a “snapshot from January 2022.” The timing of the research could affect the extent to which the repercussions of the closure of Apple Daily and Stand News were fully reflected, he said.
“It certainly takes time for the script to continue to evolve – it takes time for some media organizations to reposition themselves and it takes time for some audiences to rebuild their news usage habits,” he said. he declares.
Asked if the survey should expand its scope in the future to take into account the emergence of smaller independent media platforms – many of which were founded by former staffers of the old media – Lee said. replied that it would be “ideal”. But the study couldn’t “include too many things”, he said, and the scope of the investigation would also depend on how the news story develops in Hong Kong.
“If there are very strong signs that these pages have indeed become important channels through which people access information in Hong Kong, then it will be more necessary to consider ways to integrate at least some of them. in the investigation,” he said.
Xi: evacuate the “dirt”
On Sunday, Beijing’s Hong Kong leader Luo Huining read a letter from Chinese leader Xi Jinping at an event congratulating the state-backed Ta Kung Pao newspaper on its 120th anniversary. . Xi wrote that Hong Kong’s media should be patriotic and vent “dirt”.
“In a diverse society like Hong Kong, we especially need media that loves the country and Hong Kong, that can drain garbage and bring fresh water, and we need patriotic media that stand firm in their mission and assume their responsibilities,” Luo quoted Xi as saying.
Meanwhile, new chief executive John Lee said freedom of the press in Hong Kong was “unlimited” as long as journalists did not break the law. He said the idea was in line with international standards.
Hong Kong authorities have launched a “fake news” law to tackle what they consider to be misinformation. The Home Affairs Bureau said last month it had commissioned an advisory firm to review legislation enacted in foreign jurisdictions regarding the regulation of disinformation and make recommendations for future legislation.