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.
FCCC: Foreign Press Face ‘Unprecedented Hurdles’ In Covering China
Foreign journalists in China face growing threats of harassment and intimidation, while news organizations there are operating at drastically reduced staffing levels, according to an annual report on working conditions by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China.
“As the number of journalists forced out by the Chinese state grows, covering China is increasingly becoming an exercise in remote reporting,” according to the club’s report published Monday. “With China pulling out all the stops for the Olympic Games, the FCCC is troubled by the breakneck speed by which media freedom is declining in China.”
The full text of the report can be found here.
In November, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong published its own survey of members on press freedom in Hong Kong. That survey can be found here.
MOFA Responds to FCC Statement on Stand News
The spokesperson of the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China in the HKSAR strongly disapproved and firmly rejected misleading comments of a spokesperson of the European External Action Service and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong on the law enforcement activities of the Hong Kong police, which vilified Hong Kong’s rule of law and freedom and emboldened anti-China elements in Hong Kong. The historical trend of righting the wrongs in Hong Kong is unstoppable, and all external interference will prove to be futile.
The spokesperson said that Hong Kong is a society under the rule of law where it enforces laws and regulations and prosecutes any illegal acts. The actions taken by the Hong Kong police towards the relevant organization in accordance with law and the arrest of individuals suspected of conspiring to publish seditious publications are actions of justice to safeguard national security, the rule of law and public order in Hong Kong. It is what the Hong Kong society expected and brooks no interference. Those who engage in activities that endanger national security and undermine the rule of law and public order under the cover of journalism are the black sheep tarnishing the press freedom and will be held accountable in accordance with law. Some external forces fanned the flames in haste and spoke up for anti-China forces in Hong Kong, further proving that they attempted to undermine the rule of law in Hong Kong and damage Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.
The spokesperson pointed out that the Basic Law for the HKSAR and the National Security Law protect the lawful rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents, including freedom of speech and press. Since the implementation of the National Security Law, Hong Kong has returned to the right track, and the press freedom has been better protected in a more secure, stable and law-based environment. It is a fact that all the fair-minded cannot deny. Some external forces have repeatedly attacked the press freedom in Hong Kong to create the so-called “chilling effect”. Supporting the freedom of the press is just their excuse, and their true purpose is to disrupt the stable and sound-governed Hong Kong. Facts cannot be twisted and the historical trend cannot be reversed. No slander can distort the fact that Hong Kong enjoys a highly-developed media sector and press freedom, nor can it prevent Hong Kong from opening a new chapter in transforming from chaos to stability and prosperity. Nothing can stop the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
The spokesperson stressed that Hong Kong is part of China and Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs. We urge some external forces to respect the facts, follow the global trend, stop undermining the rule of law in the HKSAR, stop colluding with those suspected of endangering China’s national security, and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs under any pretext.
FCC Statement on Stand News Raid and Arrests
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is deeply concerned over the arrests of six journalists and individuals associated with Stand News, including former directors.
More than 200 officers raided the newsroom of the online news outlet on Wednesday morning. The FCC notes that Ronson Chan, chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association was also taken in for questioning during the raid. He was subsequently released.
These actions are a further blow to press freedom in Hong Kong and will continue to chill the media environment in the city following a difficult year for the city’s news outlets.
The FCC notes that its press freedom survey of correspondent and journalist members released in November found an overall deterioration of working conditions for journalists in Hong Kong, including 71% of respondents saying they were either slightly concerned or very concerned about the possibility of arrest or prosecution due to their reporting or from writing opinion articles.
While the FCC is not commenting on the legality of today’s actions, the club urges authorities to respect press freedom, protected under the Basic Law and vital to the maintenance of Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre.
The six persons arrested are the former chief editor of Stand News, Chung Pui-kuen, acting editor-in-chief, Lam Shiu-tung, and former directors, Denise Ho, Margaret Ng, Christine Fang, and Chow Tat-chi.
CPJ Report Shows 8 Journalists Jailed In Hong Kong, 50 in China
The number of journalists around the world imprisoned because of their work hit a new high this year, according to a report published Thursday by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The CPJ’s report put the number of jailed reporters at 293, up from a revised total of 280 in 2020. The report lists eight journalists in Hong Kong out of a total of 50 reporters jailed in China. The number of imprisoned journalists in Myanmar surged from none last year to 26 this year following the military coup in February.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is posting a link to the report here as part of its ongoing commitment to press freedom.
The FCC Notes the One-Year Anniversary of Haze Fan’s Detention
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong notes with concern that it has been one year since Haze Fan, a Chinese employee of Bloomberg News, was detained in Beijing on suspicion of national security law violations. To date, no information has been released about Fan’s whereabouts or her case.
The FCC is reposting a joint statement to which it was a signatory released shortly after Fan’s detention. The FCC continues to urge Chinese authorities to release information about Fan’s detention.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Clubs and Associations of Japan, Hong Kong, Jakarta, the Philippines, South Asia, Taiwan and Thailand are very concerned to learn that Haze Fan, a Chinese employee working for Bloomberg News, has been detained in Beijing.
The FCCs stand by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China in its efforts to seek an explanation on why the Chinese authorities detained Fan.
The clubs also join together in expressing alarm at reports of deteriorating conditions for journalists working for international media in China.
Fan has worked with Bloomberg since 2017. Other outlets she worked for before include Al Jazeera, CBS News, CNBC, and Thomson Reuters.
She has been missing since Monday, December 7th. Bloomberg received confirmation of her arrest on ‘suspicion of engaging in activities that jeopardize national security’ only on Thursday.
Chinese nationals perform invaluable roles in support of foreign media in China. Without their work, it would be difficult for foreign media to operate in China, and their safety is a matter of the highest concern.
Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan
Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong
Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Jakarta
Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines
Foreign Correspondents’ Club of South Asia
Taiwan Foreign Correspondents’ Club
Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand
Visa Denial for Sue-Lin Wong Underscores Rising Press Freedom Concerns
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, is deeply concerned that another journalist, Sue-Lin Wong of The Economist, has been denied an employment visa in Hong Kong.
This follows the denial of visas for Victor Mallet of the Financial Times in 2018, Chris Buckley of the New York Times, and Aaron Mc Nicholas of the Hong Kong Free Press last year.
The decision by the Immigration Department not to extend Sue-Lin Wong’s visa, made without explanation, further highlights the concerns raised in the FCC’s survey of correspondent and journalist members on the state of press freedom in Hong Kong published on 5 November.
The survey clearly illustrated the deteriorating working environment for journalists in Hong Kong, with visa applications emerging as a major problem. In all, 24% of respondents said they had experienced slight delays or obstacles in obtaining visas, while 29% said they had experienced considerable obstacles or delays.
The FCC has previously urged the Immigration Department, in two letters published in 2020, to provide more clarity on its procedures for issuing journalists’ employment visas. So far, we have not received a satisfactory response.
We again call on the government to provide concrete assurances that applications for employment visas and visa extensions will be handled in a timely manner with clearly-stated requirements and procedures, and that the visa process for journalists will not be politicised or weaponised.
FCC Statement on the Sentencing of American Journalist Danny Fenster in Myanmar
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is alarmed and deeply disturbed by the harsh sentence handed down today in Myanmar to American journalist Danny Fenster. Fenster, who at the time of his arrest in May was the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, was convicted by a court in Yangon on three charges and sentenced to 11 years in jail. The court imposed the harshest possible sentences for those charges, which include an immigration offense and a violation of the unlawful associations act.
The FCC is additionally concerned about two more serious additional charges for which Fenster is yet to stand trial.
Since taking power in February, Myanmar’s military harshly cracked down on the media and quickly rolled back the hard fought press freedom gains made over the past decade. The offices of media organizations have been raided by security forces. Some journalists have gone into hiding or fled the country, and of more than 100 arrested journalists, dozens remain in jail for their reporting on the rapidly deteriorating situation in the country.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club calls on Myanmar’s government to respect and uphold its stated commitment to press freedom, and to unconditionally release Fenster and other detained journalists.