The recently released 2014 Press Freedom Annual Report by Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) indicated that 2014 has been the darkest for press freedom in Hong Kong for several decades. “Hong Kong’s press freedom is under siege,” it read. In addition, HKJA announced the establishment of the Self-censorship Monitoring Committee to accept complaints from media outlets so as to let the public know how much threat Hong Kong’s press freedom is under.
In the 2014 Press Freedom Annual Report press conference on July 6, HKJA chairperson Sham Yee Lan gave a speech entitled, “Press Freedom Under Siege.” She pointed out that Hong Kong media has been under intense pressure since mid 2013.
Sham Yee Lan: “We reckon that Hong Kong’s press freedom had its darkest year in several decades.”
Sham Yee Lan said that over 3 million copies of newspapers are published in Hong Kong per day. But the diversity in the past has become monotonous, in particular this year. China has suppressed and interfered with Hong’s media in various aspects.
Sham Yee Lan: “Many newspapers do not carry the news regarding some sensitive issues.
During the period when an important incident occurs, Hong Kong media will bear the brunt of the impact. It affects media’s direction and the freedom of speech. It (China) is struggling to gain more room to control public opinion. We have seen a retreat in Hong Kong’s press freedom.”
Hu Liyun, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) representative in Hong Kong and China, says that Hong Kong’s real mass media situation in the first half of the year was very bad.
Hu Liyun: “Not only were some journalists’ working opportunities cancelled, but some advertisers stopped placing advertisements on some outspoken media due to political reasons. What’s even worse is that some publishers were attacked. As there have been so many things happening publicly in such a short period of time this year, we think it has put people in an anxious state.”
According to the 2014 World Press Freedom Index released by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders on Feb. 12, 2014, the ranking of Hong Kong’s press freedom has continued to fall, dropping to 61st among 180 countries and regions from 18th in 2002.
In February this year, ex-chief editor of Hong Kong’s Ming Pao, Kevin Lau, was violently attacked. Many news and media bodies in Hong Kong have also met with similar misfortune. The news anchor of Commercial Radio Hong Kong was abruptly fired along with a few other high ranking employees. Hong Kong’s Apple Daily and AM730 had their advertisements removed by their clients. Last but not least, Hong Kong Television Network’s application for the Hong Kong domestic free television program service license was rejected by the Hong Kong government.
Senior Hong Kong media news person Poon Siu To told Radio Free Asia, “When Kevin Lau was dismissed, we said it was bad enough. When Li Huiling was dismissed, we said it was probably the darkest hour. But when Kevin Lau was stabbed by assailants, we proclaimed that even violence has taken place! These days, the director of editorial operations of Ming Pao could freely interfere and amend in the headlines. This is unprecedented and it destroys our entire media system.”
Recently, the director of editorial operations of Ming Pao, Lu Jiaming, ordered the termination of newspapers that were already under printing without any prior notice to the chief editor as well as other editorial coordinators. Further, he deleted the original title of the Hong Kong July 1 parade report. The original title, “Striving for Universal Suffrage” was deleted and replaced with “Police Cleanup at the Scene.” This action was widely condemned by the Hong Kong news industry.
The International Federation of Journalists issued a declaration on July 4 criticizing high ranking personnel of Ming Pao for the amendment of the report on July 1 protests. The IFJ declared that such an act contravenes press freedom principles.
Ex-chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Mak Yin-ting, said that Lu Jiaming’s change in the news report is clearly an act of news censorship.
Hong Kong Journalists Association expressed the concern over the growing self-censorship in the news arena and swiftly established a Council for the Investigation of Self-Censorship.
Sham Yee Lan: “Our main objective in setting up the council is to assess the self-censorship situation in Hong Kong media from a neutral and objective point of view. We wish to promote public concern and awareness in the situation of self-censorship of Hong Kong media.”
Sham Yee Lan also indicates that the Hong Kong Journalists Association investigated the press freedom ratings in Hong Kong earlier this year. The investigation revealed that the self-censorship situation in Hong Kong was grave.
Sham Yee Lan: “China has a very different regime from Hong Kong. China is under the dictatorship of the Communist Party, their thought paradigms and their lifestyles differ from that of Hong Kong. They also have different preconceived ideas and notions. In China, propaganda is a very important objective of news media.”
Sham Yee Lan emphatically stated that freedom of press is very important to Hong Kong. Without freedom of press, Hong Kong will have no truth. It also means that Hong Kong people’s right to information will be rendered illusory.