FCC Congratulates Ressa, Muratov for Nobel Peace Prize
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong congratulates journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for winning the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded ”for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
The FCC applauds the Nobel Committee for its recognition of two courageous and deserving journalists, and for the message in defense of press freedom that the award sends.
Ressa, 58, is the co-founder and chief executive of Rappler, a digital news outlet in the Philippines. She has spoken at the FCC on several occasions, and is a tireless advocate of the free press and efforts to combat misinformation across the region and beyond. Links to her speeches and events at the club can be found below.
The FCC has been following with concern remarks by the Secretary for Security regarding the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the city’s largest union for working journalists. The secretary’s remarks questioned the details of HKJA’s membership rolls. The HKJA has responded to the secretary’s remarks with the following statement, which the FCC is republishing. The FCC expresses its support for all working journalists during an increasingly challenging time in Hong Kong’s media environment:
In response to media enquiries about our membership and the Secretary for Security’s comments on Wednesday, the HKJA would like to make the following comments:
As of 15 September 2021 at 2pm, HKJA has 486 current members. They include 331 full members, 22 associate members, 34 public relations members, 56 student members, and 43 retired or permanent members. The numbers of our membership fluctuate as the Association processes new applications and renewals daily.
In response to media enquiries on the number of our members employed by specific media outlets, we would like to note that our members come from a large number of media organisations. Each individual membership lasts one year and members are required to renew their membership by the end of the year. If the media outlet where a member works has closed down, or if the member has left the media industry, they will not be able to renew their membership. The details on membership eligibility are available on our website’s membership application section, and are stated in our charter.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Security Chris Tang today said HKJA may “assuage the public’s doubts” by publishing our membership list “without disclosing personal information.” We are baffled by the Secretary’s apparently illogical suggestion. HKJA hopes the Secretary could understand that our members’ employment is part of their personal information. We are therefore unable to decipher how we could possibly make public the media outlets where our members are employed, without also disclosing their personal data at the same time.
We would like to reiterate that under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, HKJA may not disclose members’ personal data without their expressed consent. Any suggestion to make our membership and their employers public in order to “assuage doubts” would appear to incite a breach of the Ordinance.
Hong Kong Journalists Association 15 September 2021
FCC Expresses Deep Regret Over Closure of Apple Daily
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong wishes to express its deep regret at the announcement of the closure of Apple Daily.
Apple Daily has been a vibrant member of the Hong Kong media landscape for more than quarter of a century and a widely read source of information for many in the city.
The closure is a blow to the journalism community in Hong Kong and raises legitimate concerns over the future of press freedom in the city. It comes after government authorities froze its assets and arrested several top editors.
The closure also has a major social impact and will leave hundreds of journalists, editorial production staff and other employees involved in the publication and distribution of the newspaper unemployed.
The FCC calls on the Hong Kong media community to provide assistance for those now left jobless with the closure in finding new employment.
FCC Statement on Arrests and Search Involving Apple Daily
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is concerned over the arrest of five Apple Daily executives, including its editor-in-chief Ryan Law and deputy chief editor.
According to the Hong Kong police and media reports, the five were detained on suspicion of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces under the National Security Law and were undergoing questioning.
The FCC notes that the Hong Kong police’s search of the Apple Daily premises took place under a warrant “covering the power of searching and seizure of journalistic materials.” Press reports indicate that police searched journalists’ notes and files and accessed their computers.
We are not pronouncing on the legalities of the situation or today’s actions. However the Foreign Correspondents’ Club is concerned that this latest action will serve to intimidate independent media in Hong Kong and will cast a chill over the free press, protected under the Basic Law.
Hong Kong Press Freedom Index for Journalists Hits Record Low – HKJA
The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has released the Hong Kong Press Freedom Index 2020, which shows that the index for journalists has reached an all-time low. According to the HKJA, the reason for the decline is that “journalists are more cautious than ever when they criticise the HKSAR Government and the Central Government, and managements have put more pressure on them.”
Noting that press freedom in Hong Kong has “greatly deteriorated in the past year,” particularly following the passage of the National Security Act, the HKJA describes a host of developments which have collectively impeded news gathering. As a result, the index for journalists is now at a record low of 32.1 on a scale of 0-100. Previously, the figure stood at 36.2 for 2019 and 40.9 for 2018, reflecting a rapid decline.
The past 12 months have been one of the most challenging periods for press freedom, not just in Hong Kong but across the region. The military coup in Myanmar, the crackdown on protests in Thailand and attacks on independent media in the Philippines have all threatened the physical safety and personal liberty of reporters.
In Hong Kong, which has fallen to 80th place on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, from 18th in 2002, journalists have contended with a range of challenges, including new police limits on accreditation, the prosecution of members of the media, ever increasing pressure on the editorial independence of RTHK, concerns over visas and an attack by thugs on a newspaper printing plant.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has said that the media are one of the priority sectors in Hong Kong that need to be “improved” and, with the support of Police Commissioner Chris Tang, says she wants to introduce a “fake news” law. Precedents from around the world have shown that such laws are invariably used to stifle critical coverage and freedom of speech.
On World Press Freedom Day, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong wishes to express its solidarity with journalists who are facing harassment, imprisonment or risking their lives to carry out their essential mission. The club is committed to defending press freedom in Hong Kong and across the region by speaking up when it is under threat, by providing resources and workshops for working reporters, and inviting prominent Hong Kong and international journalists and personalities to speak at the club on matters of public concern.
Hong Kong Police Force Responds to the FCC’s Letter to the Commissioner of Police Regarding ‘Fake News’
The spokesperson of the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China in the HKSAR expressed strong disapproval of and firm opposition against the unwarranted remarks by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong (FCC) and certain other external forces about the Hong Kong judiciary’s trial of a case related to false statements. Such comments openly vilified the SAR Government and trampled upon the rule of law on the pretext of press freedom, and constituted a blatant interference in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs.
The spokesperson said that Hong Kong is governed by the rule of law, where the law shall be strictly abided by, any lawbreaker shall be held accountable, and no organization or individual shall be above the law. The fact for the particular case was clear and the evidence solid. Both the Hong Kong police’s arrest of the suspect and the judicial proceedings complied with the law and had nothing to do with press freedom, which is enshrined in the Basic Law of the HKSAR and the Law of the PRC on Safeguarding National Security in the HKSAR. Some external forces, however, have tried to exploit the case and distorted the truth by alleging that press freedom is stifled in Hong Kong. It has only laid bare their ulterior motive to seek privileges above the law under the guise of press freedom, obstruct the SAR Governmnent’s law-based governance, and undermine Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. But such wishful thinking will only come to naught.
The spokesperson emphasized that since the anti-amendment unrest, the Hong Kong police have lived up to their duty and rigorously enforced the law with admiring professionalism and commitment for the purpose of safeguarding national security and Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and protecting Hong Kong resident’s interests and well-being. The Hong Kong community and all those who love both the city and the country have born testimony to the fact. We firmly support the SAR Government’s law-based governance, and support the Hong Kong police’s legitimate efforts to combat violence and crime, uphold law and order, and ensure the continuous success of “One Country, Two Systems”.
The spokesperson reiterated that Hong Kong is part of China. We urge the FCC and relevant external forces to face the facts, know their place, truly respect Hong Kong’s rule of law and judicial independence, and avoid saying one thing but doing another, still less meddle with Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs at large on the pretext of press freedom.
An Open Letter to Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Regarding His Comments on Prosecuting ‘Fake News’
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong on 22 April delivered a letter to Commissioner of Police Chris Tang seeking clarity regarding his recent comments on prosecuting “fake news.” The FCC is publishing the letter in full below.
The FCC Condemns the Prosecution of Journalist Bao Choy
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong strongly condemns the prosecution of Bao Choy, the former RTHK journalist convicted on Thursday for her use of a public database in the course of reporting a documentary.
The government’s actions against Choy set a dangerous precedent. They open the door to further legal action against journalists for engaging in routine reporting. They will also deter journalists from accessing legally available public records in Hong Kong.
Although Choy will not go to jail, she will be left with a criminal record and be forced to pay an HKD 6,000 (US$774) fine for only doing her job. In delivering her verdict, the judge accused Choy of misrepresenting herself and asked her to find other ways to seek the information she needed for her report.
However, the government has narrowed the categories of who could access the data in question and why. It is clear that Choy was singled out and punished for a search that is routinely conducted by journalists in Hong Kong. Choy’s documentary investigated the actions of police during an attack on protesters and commuters that took place at the Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, 2019.
While we appreciate that the judge overseeing the case spared Choy jail time, citing the merits of her reporting and the public interest involved, we wish the prosecutors had shown similar restraint and never brought this case in the first place.
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