Hong Kong press freedom index hits record low after national security law

Published (HKT): 2021.05.03 19:46

A gauge of Hong Kong press freedom fell to its lowest in the eight years since the index has been published, with an overwhelming majority of the journalists surveyed pinning the blame on the government and last year’s imposition of the national security law by Beijing.

Over 96% of the journalists who took part in the survey pointed to the swingeing and draconian new law. An even higher proportion cited the August 2020 police raid of Apple Daily as a further significant erosion of the media environment.

The index was jointly published Monday — World Press Freedom Day — by the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute.

The 2020 survey, conducted in February and March this year, comprised 1,390 respondents, including 367 journalists who scored Hong Kong’s press freedom at 32.1 out of 100, lower than its previous nadir of 36 during the height of anti-government demonstrations in 2019.

Press freedom had deteriorated sharply in the past year, with the new law casting a “chilling effect” on the industry, said Chris Yeung, HKJA chairperson.

He warned of a further slide to come as the government used possible new anti-fake news legislation as a “weapon against the press,” further discouraging people from joining the media or investing in new outlets.

Fully 85% of the journalists polled felt that the Hong Kong government was the source of the suppression of press freedom.

More than two-thirds felt that the central government’s emphasis on “one country before two systems” in recent years — referring to the stress placed by Beijing officials on their jurisdiction over the semi-autonomous former British colony — made them feel uneasy when reporting voices with a different political stance.

The main reason for the drop in ratings reflected journalists’ concerns regarding publishing criticisms against the Hong Kong government and Beijing, said Karie Pang, HKPORI director.

Journalists fear they won’t be afforded sufficient protection when gathering information they need to report a story, she said.

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