Free media in Hong Kong virtually fully dismantled – report | Hong Kong

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Free media in Hong Kong has been virtually fully dismantled by the federal government crackdown, clearing the marketplace for an expanded pro-Beijing and state-owned media sector, a brand new report has mentioned.

The report, by UK-based advocacy group Hong Kong Watch, got here shortly after Hong Kong’s International Correspondent’s Membership introduced it was suspending its Human Rights Press Awards as a result of it didn’t wish to unintentionally violate the town’s wide-ranging nationwide safety regulation imposed in 2020 by Beijing.

The working setting for native and international journalists in Hong Kong has change into more and more tough, the report mentioned, detailing the widespread use of “lawfare” towards journalists – together with with the nationwide safety regulation – acts of intimidation and police violence, mass sackings, and authorities intervention or censorship of shops. It famous the redefinition by police of who constituted a journalist, the pending introduction of a pretend information regulation, and the criminalising of conventional analysis strategies.

For the reason that 2019 pro-democracy protests, a crackdown has seen the closure of Apple Every day, Stand Information and others. Sources and residents now concern retribution or authorized penalties for talking to journalists. A authorities intervention into RTHK has stripped the general public broadcaster of its former editorial independence, and a chilling impact has unfold throughout remaining media, with some partaking in alarming self-censorship.

In a single instance, Chris Wong – a former information presenter with the TVB broadcaster – described to Hong Kong Watch his makes an attempt to report on the November 2019 assault on pro-democracy councillor Andrew Chiu, whose ear was bitten off. The assault was evidenced by clear images and video, the report famous.

“The script that the editor offered mentioned that Mr Chiu’s ear fell off naturally, someway,” Wong mentioned. “No person did something, it was not a chunk, and the ear simply fell to the ground. The editors didn’t wish to cowl violence by pro-Beijing ‘blue’ supporters.”

Wong additionally mentioned they have been ordered to name protesters “black shirts” and to not cowl their press conferences, whereas operating these by the police in full.

“Sadly, TVB broken the fame of its journalists, and due to TVB’s fame, all former staff live and dealing below quite a lot of public criticism.”

The report additionally detailed a number of acts of police violence towards journalists throughout the protests, together with some which appeared focused.

“We have been sitting on the bottom, and we had taken off our gear, our masks and helmets and different protecting gear,” a South China Morning Put up photojournalist mentioned of masking one protest. “The police got here and sprayed teargas immediately at us. The hatred that the police confirmed towards the media was stunning.”

The silencing and intimidation of Hong Kong’s media scene had been helped by pro-Beijing shops which now benefited from the decreased business, the report urged.

“Within the absence of pro-democracy media, it’s value pausing right here to think about the implications of the erosion of press freedom and the way it creates additional area for the pro-Beijing media,” the report mentioned, accusing the shops of “offering propaganda for the Chinese language Communist celebration regime and the Hong Kong authorities, and threatening their critics, each in print and thru numerous types of harassment.”

“I feel we’ve got seen an emboldening of them,” mentioned Hong Kong Watch director, Benedict Rogers, noting latest strikes by Ta Kung Pao to commit whole pages to attacking the church, church-run faculties, Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, and Hong Kong Watch.

“That struck me as a sort of escalation and emboldening. They’ve at all times now and again gone after individuals like me and other people in Hong Kong however I’ve by no means seen full web page spreads.”

The report additionally famous the claims of former Stand Information editor and chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Affiliation, Ronson Chan, that he was tailed by a Ta Kung Pao reporter earlier than the paper revealed a entrance web page story accusing him of visiting a intercourse employee. In March 2020 Ta Kung Pao revealed a listing of artists and humanities organisations it mentioned have been linked to anti-government activists, together with the artist Kacey Wong who later fled to Taiwan.

The report additionally accused the papers of publishing “propaganda” together with descriptions of the 2021 vote for the legislative council, as “essentially the most profitable since handover” regardless of a traditionally low voter turnout of about 30%.

Most people for now can nonetheless get information from remaining free media and worldwide shops, Rogers mentioned, “however when it comes to Chinese language language native media they actually have a a lot a lot narrower selection and the hazard then is that they’re getting information filtered via the lens of Beijing’s propaganda.”

Within the report Hong Kong Watch referred to as for worldwide governments to supply pathways and help to fleeing Hong Kong journalists who wish to to migrate, and to proceed Cantonese language media from abroad. It additionally referred to as for governments to make use of Magnitsky-style sanctions and different types of stress to encourage the Hong Kong authorities to revive media freedoms.

“The worldwide neighborhood should not permit these liable for these violations to get away with impunity and with out consequence,” it mentioned.

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