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Press freedom takes a dive in three surveys

Press freedom in Hong Kong continued to deteriorate last year in the face of self-censorship and high-profile cases of violence, a poll of journalists and members of the public showed. There were at least 30 cases reported of journalists being attacked last year.

This is according to two Hong Kong surveys and an earlier international survey by Reporters Without Borders.

While more than half of the members of the public surveyed for the Hong Kong Press Freedom Index felt that last year saw a step back for press freedom, journalists were even more gloomy. Some 90 % said press freedom had suffered, with 48% pointing to a “substantial setback”, the SCMP reported.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association, which runs the annual index, said the results reflected a growing number of physical attacks on journalists. The index drew on two polls conducted in January. The University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme surveyed 1,035 members of the public, while the HKJA interviewed 537 journalists.

For journalists, self-censorship and access to information are major problems. While some 90% of the journalists said they had the impression that there were more “attacks by law enforcers” on their colleagues last year than in 2013. Some 87% said people participating in events organised by pro-establishment groups had become more violent towards journalists.

The 2015 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders, highlights the worldwide deterioration in freedom of information in 2014. Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents.

The indicators are incontestable. There was a drastic decline in freedom of information in 2014. Two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed performed less well than in the previous year. The annual global indicator, which measures the overall level of violations of freedom of information in 180 countries year by year, has risen to 3,719, an 8% increase over 2014 and almost 10% compared with 2013.

The index showed declines in press freedom in Hong Kong (70 out of 180), China (178), Vietnam (175), Singapore (153) and the rest of Asia. Even among the better preforming countries, Taiwan (51), South Korea (60) and Japan (61) also declined.

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