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FCC President Jodi Schneider’s op-ed on press freedom is published in the LA Times

This op-ed on press freedom in Hong Kong, written by the club’s president, Jodi Schneider, will appear in the print edition of the LA Times on December 20. It is available to view on the LA Times website here.

Two deaths. Hundreds injured. More than 10,000 rounds of tear gas and half as many rubber bullets fired. More than six months of unrest. People and businesses are leaving Hong Kong as anti-government protests disrupt a city long praised for efficiency, ease of doing business and its retention of basic freedoms — including press freedom — that are nonexistent across the border in mainland China.

Amplifying this city’s deep-seated tensions is a surge of conspiracy theories and disinformation, which fuel the escalating violence. Public trust in the semiautonomous Chinese territory’s leaders, police and public institutions has been ruptured possibly beyond repair — as shown by the record-high turnout of voters in recent local elections supporting pro-democracy candidates. The vote was widely considered a referendum on the government’s handling of the protests.

Journalists have often worked under enormous pressure and in difficult conditions to cover these rapidly unfolding events. Yet rather than being respected as impartial witnesses attempting to bring light to facts, reporters have found themselves under attack while covering the protests and the police response.

The media have become part of the story as Hong Kong’s once-vaunted press freedom has been severely impaired.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong has sought to keep track of multiple incidents in recent months in which reporters were injured or obstructed by police while covering the unrest.

Veby Mega Indah, a reporter for an Indonesian-language newspaper, lost sight in one eye after police shot her in the face with a rubber bullet while she was covering a protest. Police forced May James, a prominent photojournalist, to remove a gas mask and jailed her overnight after she did not show her local ID — to a policeman whose identity was obscured. A driver working for Hong Kong’s largest pay-TV operator was hit by a police projectile, detained and left with a broken jaw after being beaten by police. A journalist with the online site Stand News has been diagnosed with a skin condition that has been linked to tear gas.

Tear gas is often fired close to — or directly at — journalists. Press access was restricted at a major university where protesters were in a standoff with police. And police have taken to deliberately shining flashlights and flashing strobe lights at journalists to obstruct them from taking pictures and video.

The attacks on the press have occurred even though journalists are clearly identified. They wear helmets and bright yellow vests emblazoned with “PRESS” and present press identification to police officers.

These events, many of them documented via video or livestreamed, have made it clear that journalists — including student reporters — are being targeted. There have been too many instances for them to be accidental or coincidence. It appears that a deliberate effort is being made to prevent independent reporting of events, and police in Hong Kong increasingly do not want their actions seen or recorded.

Amid the escalating violence, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club has been trying to help journalists in the city, including local reporters and foreign correspondents. My fellow club members and I held a series of practical workshops on things that most journalists in Hong Kong probably have not encountered — how to use milk or a saline solution to douse their eyes after being exposed to tear gas or wash away the blue dye used to identify protesters, how to resist unlawful police demands and how to secure a digital footprint so sources won’t be compromised. Videos of the workshop series have been made available online.

Board members of the correspondents’ club met with Hong Kong police officials to discuss how to improve press-police relations. Our recommendations included making sure police officers are easily identifiable and asking police to refrain from shining lights directly at news photographers and camera operators.

The protests present unprecedented challenges to the Hong Kong media, which have not faced this level of violence since communist-led protests against British colonial rule in the 1960s. The media are simply trying to do their job, which they have a right to do under Hong Kong law.

The United Nations provides a framework for maintaining good relations between the police and the press, which says the public has a right to observe and examine police actions. Journalists are the public’s witnesses. The police have a duty to maintain public order, yet also to be subject to public scrutiny. They should expect the media to take photographs and video, and not interfere with reporting. Security forces have neither the authority nor the legitimacy to impose limits on freedom of the press, according to U.N. protocols.

As U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said this year in defense of the world’s press: “Informing is not a crime.”

Hong Kong press freedom has been additionally challenged in recent years since more outlets have been bought by media owners with ties to mainland China, where the press is heavily censored and controlled by the Chinese government. Still, most foreign and local media outlets maintain their independence. Historically, they have helped keep public authorities and business figures accountable without fear for their safety or interference by authorities.

If that spirit slips away in Hong Kong, it could embolden other authoritarian-minded governments and world leaders to discredit the crucial role the press plays in societies around the world. The increasing danger facing journalists here is a threat to press freedom everywhere.

Jodi Schneider is president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong.

Celebration of Life for Dr. Peter Hunt Miles

2020 HUMAN RIGHTS PRESS AWARDS

 

2020 HUMAN RIGHTS PRESS AWARDS
Open for Entries on January 1, 2020
(Scroll down for Chinese version)

As the world marks Human Rights Day, Asia’s most prestigious awards honouring outstanding human rights reporting is announcing that it will be open for entries from January 1, 2020 to February 1, 2020.

The Human Rights Press Awards, now in their 24th year, are organised by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong, Amnesty International Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

Showcasing this work has become more important than ever as governments around the region step up threats to basic freedoms, whether it be locking up journalists, carrying out arbitrary detentions or silencing political opponents.

Submissions must have been reported about the Asia region and been published or broadcast during the 2019 calendar year. Entries must be in either English or Chinese. Categories include Breaking News, Feature, Commentary, Multimedia, Video, Audio and Photography. Please go to the website for more details.

Each entry must cite the article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the work seeks to address. This landmark document set out the inalienable rights to which every person is entitled. The full text is available here: https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html

Please mark your calendars and be ready to submit your work!
The online entry form will be open on 1 January 2020 at:
https://humanrightspress.awardsplatform.com/

The awards will be presented at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club on May 6 at 6-8pm.
For further information, please visit:

http://humanrightspressawards.org

And follow us on:
Twitter https://twitter.com/HRPressAwards
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HumanRightsPA

For queries, please contact the awards administrator:
Cintia Huen
The Chinese University of Hong Kong – School of Journalism and Communication
Email: [email protected]  Tel: (852) 3943 8705


二零二零年人權新聞獎
1月1日起接受報名

亞洲矚目的新聞界盛事、二零二零年人權新聞獎將於1月1日起接受報名,誠邀新聞工作者踴躍參與,截止日期為2020年2月1日

人權新聞獎由香港外國記者會、國際特赦組織香港分會及香港記者協會合辦,以表彰亞洲區的卓越人權新聞報道,今年已是第二十四屆。獎項旨在增加公眾對人類基本權利尊重,並令大眾關注任何對這些權利之威脅。

近年區內多個政府對基本人權自由之侵害變本加厲,扣留記者、任意拘捕、打壓政治異己等新聞時有所聞,令舉辦此獎項以表揚人權新聞,更形重要。

參選作品必須為亞洲區的人權議題採訪報道,並於二零一九年內刊出或公開播放。參賽作品須以中文或英文提交,今屆參賽類別包括:突發新聞、特寫、評論、多媒體、錄像、電台廣播和錄音及攝影。詳情請瀏覽新聞獎官方網站。

參加者必須註明參選作品與《世界人權宣言》中哪一條人權宣言相關。
《世界人權宣言》全文:https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html

網上報名平台將於2020年1月1日正式開放:
https://humanrightspress.awardsplatform.com/

有關比賽詳情請瀏覽新聞獎官方網站:
http://humanrightspressawards.org

亦可追蹤我們的社交平台以獲得最新資訊:
推特: https://twitter.com/HRPressAwards
臉書: https://www.facebook.com/HumanRightsPA

如有查詢,請聯絡新聞獎秘書處:
香港中文大學新聞與傳播學院
聯絡人:禤小姐
電郵:[email protected]
電話:(852) 3943 8705

 

How To Be A Dictator

What does it take to become a dictator these days? Creating the illusion of democracy helps, as does surrounding yourself with sycophants.

These and other telling characteristics of some of history’s most infamous dictators – fear and violence included – were scrutinized by Professor Frank Dikötter, author of a new book called How To Be A Dictator.

He told a sold-out club lunch on December 4 of a number of measures that need to be in place to create a successful dictator. Above all, he said, dictators including Hitler, Stalin, Mao, “Baby Doc” Duvalier and Mengistu of Ethiopia all benefitted from the cult of personality.

“The cult of personality was there to destroy common sense, to enforce obedience, to isolate individuals and crush their dignity,” Prof Dikötter said.

He also examined today’s dictators, including Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Xi Jinping.

Watch the video here

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