Journalists admit they censor themselves

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 June, 2012, 12:00am

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One in three journalists in Hong Kong admitted exercising 'self-censorship' over the past year, according to the latest Journalists' Association survey.

The findings also showed 87 per cent of the 663 respondents said press freedom in the city - a constitutional guarantee - had been eroded under Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's administration.

Association chairwoman Mak Yin-ting said the government was to blame for the deterioration in the media's performance of its role as the fourth estate alongside the executive, legislature and judiciary.

She cited the government's tighter grip on the flow of information as the major cause of concern, with officials relying more on press releases than granting media interviews.

Self-censorship as well as interference from Beijing and its liaison office in the city had become habitual, the report concluded.

'The results confirm a worrying trend in the industry, especially when compared with a similar survey by [the association] in January 2007,' the report said.

For those who said they or their supervisors had carried out self-censorship, almost half attributed the practice to the need to downplay issues 'unfavourable to conglomerates that wield strong influence over advertising', while 37 per cent said it was to avoid information that might anger Beijing.

Last week, several political groups demonstrated outside the South China Morning Post office, accusing the paper of self-censorship over the coverage of the death of dissident Li Wangyang. They accused Post editor-in-chief Wang Xiangwei of trying to serve Beijing's interests.

The survey was conducted between mid-April and early-May.

Mak used her attendance at a memorial for Lee Tsz-chung, the former president of the Wen Wei Po newspaper who died recently, to call on the police to improve communication with the media.

She said the force should tell journalists how it planned to police the upcoming July 1 protest march.