Public perceptions of press freedom and the performance of news media have become more negative than ever, a University of Hong Kong survey has found.
Close to half of respondents believed domestic news outlets practised self-censorship, citing the abundance of condemnation of the Hong Kong government in comparison to the scarcity of criticism of Beijing, HKU researchers said.
A political scientist not involved in the study was not surprised by its findings.
"News reports these days lack depth," James Sung Lap-kung of City University said yesterday. "You don't see a lot of investigative journalism nowadays."
HKU's public opinion programme polled 1,022 people last month.
They found that net satisfaction with press freedom - the difference between respondents' satisfaction and dissatisfaction - was down to only 25 percentage points, the lowest since 1997. The previous score, compiled in May, was 29 points.
Net satisfaction with the overall performance of news media reached only 31 percentage points, down from 41 points in May and an all-time low since HKU began tracking public attitudes to the media in 1993.
"The fact that people's net satisfaction with the overall performance of news media and their net satisfaction with press freedom have both reached new lows at the same time warrants more attention," the researchers said in their report.
On a credibility scale of zero to 10, with 10 being the most credible, the media scored a rating of 6.14, down from 6.16 in October last year.
Sung said the media had led people to believe it tended to sensationalise news reports.
It had also failed to do enough work to confirm the authenticity of the information gathered before making a report, he added.
The survey also showed 36 per cent of respondents found the television to be the most trustworthy source of news, compared with only 21 per cent who trusted in newspapers.
The survey had a maximum sampling error of 4 percentage points.