New report finds freedom of the press almost eradicated in Hong Kong – JURIST
A new report published on Tuesday warns that press freedom in Hong Kong has been almost entirely curtailed by a government crackdown, creating space for pro-Beijing and pro-government media.
The report, by UK-based advocacy group Hong Kong Watch, is based on interviews with journalists currently in exile and reports from Hong Kong press associations. The crackdown, which began in 2019, has led to the closure of almost all independent and pro-democracy media outlets. Eighteen journalists have been arrested under the 2020 national security law, and at least twelve are currently in jail awaiting trial. Public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) lost its editorial independence and had its archives and Twitter history erased.
There are restrictions on access to public records and a new police definition of “journalist” that effectively restricts freelance, online, student and citizen journalists. Foreign correspondents face difficulties obtaining or renewing visas, and pro-government media attack and harass critics. All of this contributes to a chilling effect on the reporting of the few remaining independent media.
The report recommends several actions that the international community can take in response to the crackdown. These include increased monitoring of the situation in the city, demanding the release of journalists and media executives currently in prison, engaging with international mechanisms such as the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion, issuing emergency travel documents to journalists at risk of arrest, and even punitive measures against the Hong Kong government, including targeted sanctions.
Managing Director of Hong Kong Watch and author of the report Benedict Rogers called freedom of the press “a fundamental pillar of any free and open society”, and urged the international community to “help courageous journalists who continue to take risks to do their job in Hong Kong”. He also insisted that “those responsible for the dismantling of press freedom in Hong Kong are suffering the consequences and are not allowed to walk away with impunity.”