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Concerns Rising Over Weakening Media Freedoms in Hong Kong, FCC Press Freedom Survey Shows

Concerns Rising Over Weakening Media Freedoms in
Hong Kong, FCC Press Freedom Survey Shows

Journalists and correspondents in Hong Kong say working conditions have deteriorated significantly since the introduction of the National Security Law, while large numbers report growing concern about the possibility of a “fake news” law that could further erode press freedoms in the city, according to a new survey from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong.

In a wide-ranging survey of the FCC’s correspondent and journalist members, 84% of respondents said the working environment for journalism has “changed for the worse” since the law’s introduction in June 2020.

At the same time, 91% of respondents said they were either “very concerned” (76%) or “slightly concerned” (15%) about the possible introduction of a fake news law.

Concern has been heightened by the fact that, since the enactment of the National Security Law, there has been a drastic decline in the willingness of sources to be quoted–86% of respondents said their sources were less willing to be quoted or to discuss sensitive subjects, and there is concern that even relatively neutral topics might be deemed “a bit political.”

It has become very difficult for journalists to tell what is a sensitive topic: Only about half (52%) of respondents said they had a clear sense of where the government’s “red lines” were now. Moreover, respondents gave a wide range of definitions of “sensitive” and several noted that this definition could change at any time.

Most respondents (56%) said they had, to some degree, self-censored or avoided reporting on what might be considered sensitive stories. Others had deleted images out of security concerns, and there is widespread concern among journalists over digital and physical surveillance. Nearly half of the respondents (46%) said they were now considering or already had plans to leave Hong Kong because of the decline in press freedom in the city.

“These results clearly show that assurances that Hong Kong still enjoys press freedom, guaranteed under the Basic Law, are not enough,” FCC President Keith Richburg said. “More steps need to be taken to restore confidence among journalists and to make sure Hong Kong maintains its decades-long reputation as a welcoming place for the international media.”

Amid the uncertain working environment for reporters in Hong Kong, respondents noted that fake news laws have been created by authoritarian governments around the world to suppress unfavourable coverage. And there are already signs that the Hong Kong government and the police could label unfavourable coverage as “fake news”, as detailed in the FCC’s open letter on 22 April to then-Police Commissioner Chris Tang.

The FCC urges the Hong Kong government to heed the concerns of our members and take action to restore confidence among working journalists in the city. We ask the government to consider very carefully the impact a “fake news” law would have not only on the media here but also on Hong Kong’s international reputation for press freedom.

The FCC’s membership includes reporters and editors from major media outlets around the world, and from across Hong Kong’s diverse media landscape. Read the full FCC survey report here.

Contact: [email protected]

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