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FCC Statement on World Press Freedom Day

    
 
This World Press Freedom Day, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong reinforces its commitment to pushing to maintain freedom of the press in Hong Kong and around the globe.
 
As journalists and media organisations in Hong Kong face rising pressure and uncertainty due to the recent passing of the Safeguarding National Security Act, May 3 acts as a reminder for government officials to respect their stated commitment to press freedom. It is also a day for media professionals to reflect on issues of press freedom and professional ethics.
 
Today we celebrate the media’s role in providing a platform to tell stories which keep our society informed and engaged about issues which affect us all. We advocate for journalists’ right to continue to carry out their work unhindered, free of harassment and danger.
 
We show solidarity with Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who has been detained in Russia for over a year, and the hundreds of journalists imprisoned or killed as a consequence of doing their jobs covering conflicts in Myanmar, Ukraine, the Middle East and elsewhere.  
 
The Israel-Gaza war, in particular, calls attention to the need for governments to do more to safeguard journalists’ ability to inform the public. We mourn the 97 journalists and media workers killed in the course of covering that war, and express our deep concern for the 45 others reported injured, missing or arrested.1
 
The FCC will continue to monitor the press freedom situation in Hong Kong, make statements and question government policy with an aim to ensure that journalists can carry out their work without fear or favour.

“Freedom of the press is a precious privilege that no country can forgo” – Mahatma Gandhi



1Committee to Protect Journalists, 29 April 2024 https://cpj.org/2024/04/journalist-casualties-in-the-israel-gaza-conflict

FCC Statement on border entry denial of Reporters Without Borders representative

    
 
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is concerned that a representative of global press freedom NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has been denied entry to Hong Kong by the city’s immigration officials.
 
Aleksandra Bielakowska travelled to Hong Kong twice in 2023 without incident, both times in her professional capacity as an Advocacy Officer at RSF, but was denied entry on this trip. Her colleague Cédric Alviani, who was travelling with Ms Bielakowska on April 10, was granted entry to Hong Kong.
 
The FCC has reached out to the Immigration Department to ask why Ms Bielakowska was denied entry.
 
While we appreciate that the Immigration Department does not normally comment on individual cases, we respectfully request an explanation in order to improve the transparency of the system, and so that the public may better understand the reasons behind the decision.
 
 

FCC Submission on the Consultation Document of Article 23 of the Basic Law

On February 28, The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong sent the following submission to the Security Bureau on the Consultation Document of Article 23 of the Basic Law.

FCC Statement on Blocking of The Kashmir Walla in India

    
 
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is deeply troubled by what amounts to the forced closure of The Kashmir Walla, one of the last remaining independent news outlets in Indian-administered Kashmir.
 
The Kashmir Walla, founded more than a decade ago and known for its human rights reporting, has faced relentless harassment from Indian authorities since early last year, when its founder and editor, Fahad Shah, was arrested along with trainee reporter Sajad Gul under anti-terror laws. Both remain in prison.
 
On Aug. 19, Kashmir Walla staff discovered that access to their website had been blocked in India by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and that the outlet’s social media accounts were also inaccessible in India. The outlet says it received no warning and has been unable to find any official order regarding these actions.
 
The Kashmir Walla has since had to vacate its office in Srinagar after being served an eviction notice by the landlord.
 
The intimidation, harassment and arrest of journalists in Kashmir is part of a broader crackdown on civil liberties in the disputed, Muslim-majority region that began in August 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Kashmir’s autonomy and put it under central government control. The growing pressure faced by journalists in Kashmir and India more broadly is reflected in this year’s World Press Freedom Index, where India fell to 161st out of 180 countries from 150th last year.
 
The FCC urges the government of India, the world’s largest democracy, to explain the actions taken against The Kashmir Walla and respect the right to a free and independent press, which is essential to the functioning of any democratic society. It stands in solidarity with The Kashmir Walla and other independent news outlets in Kashmir, and supports all journalists’ right to do their jobs without fear of harassment or arrest.
 

The FCC has also reached out to the Indian Consulate in Hong Kong for further dialogue.

Statement on Results of FCC’s Press Freedom Survey

An anonymous survey of the FCC’s Correspondent and Journalist members reveals that many are finding the working conditions in Hong Kong to be increasingly difficult.


This finding, if taken as a true indication of the sentiment amongst other members, is an alarming reflection of the current state of press freedom in the city.


Of 66 respondents who replied, 55 persons (83 percent) said the environment for journalists had changed for the worse in the last 18 months. Whilst only 22.5 percent of the 294 eligible Correspondent and Journalist members chose to complete the survey, the FCC nevertheless regards these findings as significant.


It was found that of 52 respondents who indicated that speaking to sources is part of their job, 46 persons (88 percent) said they found sources in Hong Kong had become less willing to be quoted or to discuss sensitive subjects in the last 18 months, a telling indication of fear levels in the community.


Four respondents to the survey said that they had experienced digital surveillance while reporting in Hong Kong in the last 18 months. One person said they had experienced physical surveillance, and four more people said that they had experienced both digital and physical surveillance. These respondents chose not to provide further details in the survey.


Respondents also reported taking a more cautious approach to content. Sixty-five percent of respondents (43 persons) said that they had practiced self-censorship in the last 18 months, either in the content of their reporting or by avoiding certain subjects. Twenty-seven percent of those (12 persons) said they had self-censored “considerably”.


That is a notable increase from October 2021, when the FCC’s last press freedom survey (in which there were 99 respondents) found that 56 percent of those respondents had self-censored, including 16 percent of them to a considerable degree.


The FCC supports journalists’ fundamental right to conduct their work freely and without fear of intimidation or harassment.


We will continue our proactive engagement with relevant authorities to safeguard press freedom in the city in order to make sure that Hong Kong remains a thriving hub for journalism and business in the region.


Read the full results of the survey, which was conducted in May, in the latest edition of the club’s magazine, The Correspondent.

FCC Statement Condemning the Arrest of Freelance Photojournalist

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong condemns the arrest of freelance photojournalist May James, who was asked to remove her face mask by police while covering a protest in Mongkok on Sunday evening, October 27. At the time, she had identified herself as a journalist, wearing a high-visibility yellow vest, a helmet and backpack marked with the word “press” and produced a press identification card when questioned, according to footage of the arrest.

James was searched, arrested and then detained overnight at a police station in Kowloon. She was released early today. As a freelance photographer, James has photographed the protests for Hong Kong Free Press, AFP and others news organizations. She has shared her experiences documenting the Hong Kong protests in The Correspondent, the FCC’s magazine, as well as on a recent FCC panel with other photographers and video journalists, where she discussed the risks and responsibilities of her job.

Several other reporters were also required by police to remove their face masks in the course of their reporting duties Sunday night, despite government assurances that journalists would be exempt from the face-mask ban while carrying out their professional duties. These masks are used by reporters to protect against tear gas and pepper spray, and by law, anyone who requires the masks for professional use should be exempt from the regulation. Police appeared to use force when removing the masks and interfered with the work of reporters covering the street protests.

On Sunday night, a representative from the FCC was able to reach out to two spokesmen from the Hong Kong Police Force, including the acting superintendent for the Police Public Relations Branch, to ascertain James’s whereabouts. The contacts were a result of the FCC’s recent meeting with police representatives. Opening this channel of communication was a practical outcome from our meeting with the police and helps in the defence of journalists and FCC members.

The FCC again calls for an independent investigation into police violence against journalists and interference with the media’s right to cover the protests under Hong Kong law. The FCC urges that an investigation should be transparent.

We have expressed our concern about such incidents since the start of the protests in June, yet violence against journalists and interference continue. These incidents, including the arrest of the photojournalist last evening, undermine Hong Kong’s reputation as a place where the media can work freely, without harassment or intimidation.

October 28, 2019

FCC Statement Condemning Further Violence Against Journalists Covering the Hong Kong Protests

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong expresses its deep concern over multiple reports of police violence on Sept. 28 and Sept. 29 against journalists covering the Hong Kong protests.

They include a report of a serious injury to an Indonesian journalist working for a Hong Kong-based publication who was shot in the face by a police officer using a non-lethal round. Footage from the incident shows she was clearly identified as a journalist and that the police officer fired a parting shot from only a few meters away.

Eyewitness reports from journalists, and video and photos shared on social media, have documented incidents over the weekend that included:

* Journalists being hit by tear gas canisters and rubber bullets;

* Police targeting visibly identified journalists with pepper spray;

* The press being hit by spray from a water cannon containing dye and an agent that causes skin irritation;

* Journalists being verbally threatened by police;

* Police officers deliberately shining bright lights at journalists to impede their access and coverage;

*Police blocking journalists’ cameras and video cameras especially while making arrests of protesters.

The FCC is investigating these reports and calls for police restraint, especially with planned demonstrations in Hong Kong on the October 1 anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. The FCC calls for journalists to be able to cover the protests without interference or threat of attack, which is a right provided under Hong Kong law. The FCC also emphasizes that the media has a right to film and photograph police activity in public places, as long as the press is not impeding them.

The FCC continues to call for an independent inquiry into violence against journalists and interference with the media’s ability to cover the protests. The FCC urges that any such investigation should be transparent.

We have expressed our concern over these types of incidents since the start of the protests in June, yet the violence and interference has only escalated. The multiple incidents on Sept. 28 and Sept. 29 marked a dramatic deterioration in the ability of the media to cover the protests and seriously undermine Hong Kong’s long reputation as a place where journalists can work freely and without harassment.

September 30,2019

HKJA statement condemning doxxing of journalists

The Hong Kong Journalists Association has condemned the publishing online of journalists’ personal details, known as doxxing. In a statement, it called on the government and police to condemn and “thoroughly investigate” attacks on journalists, including these recent instances of publishing personal data.

The FCC joins the HKJA in expressing its grave concern over the adoption of this tactic to intimidate journalists in Hong Kong, who are already facing physical violence from police, attacks by thugs at protests, verbal abuse and online trolling.

HKJA condemns doxxing of journalists as an example of increasing attack on press freedom in Hong Kong

Silent Protest to be Held at FCC

Members will hold a silent protest outside the FCC on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 6:00 p.m. to show our concern about increasing limits to media access and violence against journalists covering the Hong Kong protests. We’ll gather under the banner “Yes to press freedom, no to violence against journalists.”

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