Free media in Hong Kong nearly fully dismantled – report | Hong Kong

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Free media in Hong Kong has been nearly fully dismantled by the federal government crackdown, clearing the marketplace for an expanded pro-Beijing and state-owned media sector, a brand new report has stated.

The report, by UK-based advocacy group Hong Kong Watch, got here shortly after Hong Kong’s International Correspondent’s Membership introduced it was suspending its Human Rights Press Awards as a result of it didn’t wish to unintentionally violate the town’s wide-ranging nationwide safety regulation imposed in 2020 by Beijing.

The working atmosphere for native and overseas journalists in Hong Kong has turn out to be more and more tough, the report stated, detailing the widespread use of “lawfare” in opposition to journalists – together with with the nationwide safety regulation – acts of intimidation and police violence, mass sackings, and authorities intervention or censorship of shops. It famous the redefinition by police of who constituted a journalist, the pending introduction of a faux information regulation, and the criminalising of conventional analysis strategies.

Because the 2019 pro-democracy protests, a crackdown has seen the closure of Apple Day by day, Stand Information and others. Sources and residents now concern retribution or authorized penalties for talking to journalists. A authorities intervention into RTHK has stripped the general public broadcaster of its former editorial independence, and a chilling impact has unfold throughout remaining media, with some partaking in alarming self-censorship.

In a single instance, Chris Wong – a former information presenter with the TVB broadcaster – described to Hong Kong Watch his makes an attempt to report on the November 2019 assault on pro-democracy councillor Andrew Chiu, whose ear was bitten off. The assault was evidenced by clear pictures and video, the report famous.

“The script that the editor supplied stated that Mr Chiu’s ear fell off naturally, by some means,” Wong stated. “No person did something, it was not a chew, and the ear simply fell to the ground. The editors didn’t wish to cowl violence by pro-Beijing ‘blue’ supporters.”

Wong additionally stated they had been ordered to name protesters “black shirts” and to not cowl their press conferences, whereas operating these by the police in full.

“Sadly, TVB broken the fame of its journalists, and due to TVB’s fame, all former staff live and dealing underneath a number of public criticism.”

The report additionally detailed a number of acts of police violence in opposition to journalists through the protests, together with some which appeared focused.

“We had been sitting on the bottom, and we had taken off our gear, our masks and helmets and different protecting gear,” a South China Morning Submit photojournalist stated of overlaying one protest. “The police got here and sprayed teargas straight at us. The hatred that the police confirmed in opposition to the media was surprising.”

The silencing and intimidation of Hong Kong’s media scene had been helped by pro-Beijing shops which now benefited from the decreased trade, the report recommended.

“Within the absence of pro-democracy media, it’s value pausing right here to contemplate the implications of the erosion of press freedom and the way it creates additional area for the pro-Beijing media,” the report stated, accusing the shops of “offering propaganda for the Chinese language Communist occasion regime and the Hong Kong authorities, and threatening their critics, each in print and thru varied types of harassment.”

“I believe we’ve got seen an emboldening of them,” stated Hong Kong Watch director, Benedict Rogers, noting current strikes by Ta Kung Pao to dedicate whole pages to attacking the church, church-run colleges, Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, and Hong Kong Watch.

“That struck me as a form of escalation and emboldening. They’ve all the time on occasion gone after individuals like me and other people in Hong Kong however I’ve by no means seen full web page spreads.”

The report additionally famous the claims of former Stand Information editor and chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Affiliation, Ronson Chan, that he was tailed by a Ta Kung Pao reporter earlier than the paper revealed a entrance web page story accusing him of visiting a intercourse employee. In March 2020 Ta Kung Pao revealed an inventory of artists and humanities organisations it stated had been linked to anti-government activists, together with the artist Kacey Wong who later fled to Taiwan.

The report additionally accused the papers of publishing “propaganda” together with descriptions of the 2021 vote for the legislative council, as “probably the most profitable since handover” regardless of a traditionally low voter turnout of about 30%.

Most people for now can nonetheless get information from remaining free media and worldwide shops, Rogers stated, “however when it comes to Chinese language language native media they actually have a a lot a lot narrower alternative and the hazard then is that they’re getting data filtered by way of the lens of Beijing’s propaganda.”

Within the report Hong Kong Watch known as for worldwide governments to supply pathways and help to fleeing Hong Kong journalists who wish to to migrate, and to proceed Cantonese language media from abroad. It additionally known as for governments to make use of Magnitsky-style sanctions and different types of stress to encourage the Hong Kong authorities to revive media freedoms.

“The worldwide group should not enable these chargeable for these violations to get away with impunity and with out consequence,” it stated.

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