Press Freedom Survey 2023
|Press Freedom Survey 2023
|Dear Correspondent/Journalist members,|
|To mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the FCC press freedom committee is launching the second survey of its Journalist and Correspondent members for their thoughts on whether and how the environment for press freedom is changing in Hong Kong. We would really appreciate you sharing your experiences in this anonymous survey, which should take no more than 15 minutes to complete.|
|A link to the survey has been emailed to all Correspondent and Journalist members today. Printed versions of this survey are available at the Club’s front desk.|
|The survey will be open until midnight on Friday May 19.|
|Many thanks in advance for your time,|
|The press freedom committee|
FCC Statement on Closure of Voice of Democracy in Cambodia
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is deeply troubled by the forced closure of Cambodia’s leading independent media outlet, Voice of Democracy.
Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered VOD’s licence revoked, effective Monday, over what he said was an erroneous report about his eldest son. The prime minister had demanded an apology from VOD, but refused to reconsider the revocation even after the outlet later complied.
The sudden and arbitrary closure is a devastating attack on the country’s free press and is yet another example of the increasing restrictions on press freedom in Cambodia, coming after years of harassment and intimidation of journalists, independent media outlets, and civil society groups.
The FCC notes that the closure of VOD will have far-reaching implications for Cambodia’s already fragile democracy. As the country prepares for a general election in July 2023, Cambodian citizens need access to truthful and unbiased information to help inform their choices. The right to free and independent press is essential to the functioning of any democratic society and the FCC urges the Cambodian government to respect this fundamental right.
The FCC stands in solidarity with VOD and other independent news outlets in Cambodia, and supports all journalists’ right to cover stories without fear of harassment or arrest.
MOFA Responds to FCC Statement on the arrest of Ronson Chan, chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following response to the FCC’s statement on the arrest of Ronson Chan, chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association:
The spokesperson of the Commissioner’s Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR strongly disapproved and firmly rejected the move of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) and a few Western anti-China politicians to slander the action taken by the Hong Kong police towards certain members of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) in accordance with law and to interfere with the rule of law in the HKSAR.
The spokesperson said that Hong Kong is a society governed by rule of law where laws must be enforced and lawbreakers held to account. Both the Basic Law of the HKSAR and the National Security Law for the HKSAR stipulate that lawful rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents are protected, including freedom of speech and the press. However, there is no absolute press freedom anywhere in the world that could be above law, and the identity of a journalist doesn’t mean they have amnesty or enjoy immunity for whatever they do. All journalists in Hong Kong must strictly abide by the laws of the HKSAR, and no one should engage in activities that damage Hong Kong’s stability under the name of journalism.
The spokesperson pointed out that the FCC and some Western politicians ignored the facts and took every opportunity to attack the SAR Government and supported anti-China forces in Hong Kong, which fully exposed their intention of meddling with the rule of law in the SAR and disrupting Hong Kong in the name of press freedom. Their tricks will bite the dust.
The spokesperson stressed that Hong Kong is in a new stage of moving from chaos to stability and then to greater prosperity, and no external forces could stop the sustained implementation of “one country, two systems”. We urge the FCC and certain Western politicians to recognize the fact, put themselves in the right position, respect the rule of law in the SAR, cease and desist from interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs for any reason, and stop going further down the wrong path.
Statement on the arrest of Ronson Chan, chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association
The FCC notes with concern today’s arrest of the chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Ronson Chan. The club is monitoring the situation very closely.
The police have stated that Mr. Chan was arrested after he repeatedly refused requests to show his ID. He was detained on suspicion of obstructing a police officer and disorder in a public place.
Given Mr. Chan’s position as a prominent leader in Hong Kong’s journalism community, the FCC strongly urges the authorities to exercise transparency and care in handling Mr. Chan’s case. This is especially important given the international attention on press freedom in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s government has repeatedly told the public that Hong Kong’s right to press freedom and free speech – enshrined in the city’s Basic Law – is not at risk.The FCC supports journalists’ right to cover stories without fear of harassment or arrest.
FCC Statement on July 1 Media Restrictions
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is deeply concerned by reports that some media outlets have been restricted from covering official events around the inauguration of Chief Executive-designate John Lee and the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.
At least 10 journalists working for local and international publications had their applications to cover the events rejected for “security reasons,” with no further information provided, according to media reports and comments from our members.
This follows reports that several local and international outlets were not given the chance to apply for accreditation for the events in the first place.
In the past, similar official events were open to media registration without invitation or vetting.
The 25th anniversary of the handover, the inauguration of a new chief executive and the possible visit of a state leader together comprise a seminal event in the history of Hong Kong, and a moment deserving of widespread coverage in the international and local media.
Hong Kong’s government has repeatedly told the public that Hong Kong’s right to press freedom and free speech – enshrined in the city’s Basic Law – still exists.
The FCCHK views these restrictions – enforced without detailed explanation – as a serious deviation from that stated commitment to press freedom.
The FCCHK urges the government to immediately reconsider the restrictions to allow all outlets to cover this significant story.
FCC Statement on Media Handover Restrictions
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is concerned by reports that some media outlets have been restricted from covering official events around the inauguration of Chief Executive-designate John Lee and the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.
Media reports have stated that several local and international outlets were not given the chance to apply for accreditation by the Information Services Department.
In the past, similar official events were open to media registration without invitation.
The FCCHK is concerned the procedure this year could set a precedent for excluding particular outlets from important events in future.
The FCCHK urges the Hong Kong government to reconsider the accreditation process to allow all outlets to cover these significant stories openly, in line with its stated commitment to press freedom.
Message from the President on World Press Freedom Day
FCC Statement on the Deaths of Journalists in Ukraine
The deaths of at least four journalists covering the war in Ukraine as of this writing is a sobering reminder of the dangers all journalists face when covering conflict and trying to provide truthful, independent reporting to the world.
Ukrainian photojournalist Yevhenii Sakun was killed in an attack on the Kyiv TV Tower on March 1. American documentary filmmaker Brent Renaud was killed at a checkpoint in Irpin on March13. Irish photojournalist Pierre Zakrzewski and Ukrainian freelancer Oleksandra Kuvshynova, working for Fox News, were killed when their vehicle came under fire in Horenka. Other journalists have been injured.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong extends its condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the slain journalists, and wishes those wounded a speedy recovery. We also urge all combatants to respect the neutrality of the journalists in the field. Journalists and their newsrooms covering the war in Ukraine should exercise the utmost caution, which includes attention to the safety of their locally hired drivers, translators, freelancers and stringers, who are often the most exposed to danger during conflicts.
We also would urge news organizations not to send or rely on inexperienced journalists or freelancers who lack the proper protective equipment and hostile environment training for covering conflicts.
The FCC does not normally comment on events far from our geographic home, but many of those covering the Ukraine conflict are our friends and colleagues, some who are normally based here in Hong Kong.
Besides the clear and immediate danger of reporting from a war zone, journalists in Russia now face the threat of imprisonment from the Russian government’s new “fake news law” that criminalises truthful reporting with potential prison sentences of up to fifteen years. The FCC is deeply concerned about the implications of such a draconian law, which has led many international news outlets to withdraw staff from Russia, just as we are concerned about such laws elsewhere, and about European Union countries blocking access to state-controlled Russia Today and Sputnik.
While this conflict in Ukraine has produced a tsunami of disinformation on both sides, the FCC believes that societies are best served by a free flow of information, and that informed citizens can determine for themselves fact from falsehood. Shutting down any news outlets sets a dangerous precedent that other authoritarian regimes may use.
We recognize that disinformation swirling on the internet is a problem worldwide. We believe the best solution lies not with new laws, but with more support for legitimate news organizations engaged in truthful, fact-based reporting.
FCC Statement on the Arrest of Journalist Fahad Shah
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is concerned about the arrest of Kashmir journalist Fahad Shah under India’s anti-terrorism law. Shah, who is the founding editor of The Kashmir Walla, was awarded the 25th Human Rights Press Awards in 2021 in explanatory feature writing for his coverage of the Delhi communal violence. He was arrested on Friday for allegedly uploading anti-national content.
Press freedom in the region has deteriorated since Indian prime minister Narendra Modi revoked Kashmir’s special status in 2019. Journalists seen as critical of the government are increasingly being called into questioning and the of the Kashmir Press Club has been shut down. The FCC urges authorities to respect the right of journalists to work freely and safely in the region.
Shah’s winning HRPA entry can be found here.
The following is a statement from The Kashmir Walla’s editorial board on Shah’s arrest:
Fahad Shah, the founding editor of The Kashmir Walla, has been remanded to 10 days custody by judicial Magistrate Pulwama Saturday.
He was arrested Friday by the police at the Pulwama Police station after he was called to submit a statement in an on-going investigation launched after The Kashmir Walla published the reports on events at a gunfight in the south Kashmir district on 29 January 2020. Since 31 January when Shah was summoned for questioning, he has co-operated with the police investigation.
Shah, the 33-year-old who founded The Kashmir Walla in 2009, was arrested under FIR 19/2022, with charges of sedition and the anti-terror law. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.
In a press statement, the police identified Shah among “Facebook users” who “are uploading such posts which tantamount to glorifying the terrorist activities and causing dent to the image of law enforcing agencies besides causing ill-will [and] disaffection against the country.”
Speaking with a national news-wire, Kashmir police chief, Vijay Kumar said: “Accused Fahad Shah has been arrested on the basis of one of the three FIRs lodged against him for frequently glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news, & instigating people, for the past 3-4 years.”
Kumar further added that there are currently three cases registered against Shah. He clarified that Shah was arrested under FIR in Pulwama police station. Other two FIRs stand in police stations of Safakadal, in Srinagar, and Imamsahib, in Shopian.
Shah’s arrest comes on the heels of the imprisonment of another Kashmir Walla staffer Sajad Gul. Gul was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) a day after he was granted bail by District Court Bandipora. He is currently imprisoned in Kot Bhalwal jail, in Jammu.
Under Shah’s decade-long leadership, The Kashmir Walla sailed through the devastating floods of 2014, the clampdown of August 2019, after New Delhi revoked the region’s limited-autonomy, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shah’s writing on identity conflict and human rights has featured in reputed international magazines, including Foreign Affairs, TIME, and Foreign Policy. He was awarded the prestigious 25th Human Rights Press Awards 2021 in explanatory feature writing for his coverage of Delhi communal violence in February 2020.
Shah was bed-ridden and was on medication for severe cough and fever since 31 January. The Kashmir Walla has reposed its faith in judiciary and hope that Shah would be taken care of accordingly and supremacy of law will prevail.
The team stands in solidarity with Shah and his family at this time of distress and remains committed to providing reliable and on-ground reporting from Kashmir and appeals to Manoj Sinha-led Jammu and Kashmir administration for the immediate release of Shah and Gul. We hope both of them will join us back in the newsroom soon.