Citizens must defend free press

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2014, 3:27am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2014, 3:27am

The attack on journalist Kevin Lau Chun-to serves as a nagging warning to deter journalists from uncovering the truth.

Yet, public reactions prove that people will not be intimidated. More encouragingly, all parties, ranging from the public to journalists to our government, responded actively. But, upholding freedom of the press is a collective responsibility requiring joint efforts and prudence.

Journalists at the forefront of upholding our prized freedom of the press must not be deterred from carrying out their duties. They should make it clear they will not be intimidated into concealing the truth nor will they give in.

Rather, they should continue to give full coverage of different issues. They should learn from Lau who refused to practise any self-censorship but continued to report facts to the general public. Journalists should adopt his attitude towards press freedom so that our precious freedom of press can be well-protected and upheld.

The government must back up frontline journalists through law enforcement. Our freedom of speech and the press are protected by our Basic Law.

Yet our government has been complacent about our high degree of freedom, failing to enforce the law regarding press freedom. Anyone found guilty of attacks against journalists should face heavy penalties, to deter anyone who wants to undermine the freedom of the press.

There is also a role for the public at large. As the consumers of media output, we can make it clear by the choices we make about what we expect. We should choose those publications that highlight rational discussion about different issues rather than mindless gossip about celebrities. In this way, we can show our support and recognition to the press that upholds press freedom, encouraging these publications to continue with their duties.

There also must be continuous monitoring to ensure press freedom is upheld. We should voice our discontent whenever our freedom of the press is threatened, as vocally as people's reaction to the attack on Lau, to ensure the government reacts promptly.

Lau's assault has given us grave cause for concern about press freedom in our society. It is a shame that Hong Kong prides itself on having a high reputation of press freedom and yet these attacks take place repeatedly.

Any attempt to undermine this core value that every Hongkonger cherishes must not be tolerated. The whole community needs to act collectively and sensibly in upholding our press freedom.

Barry Law Ming-chak, Tsing Yi