Hongkongers urged to be 'vigilant' on city’s eroding press freedom

Amnesty International chief warns media bosses against 'curbing the truth'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 1:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 4:09am

An international rights campaigner yesterday used the analogy of a boiled frog to urge Hongkongers to fight creeping erosion of their freedom of expression.

"Heat the water gently, and the frog allows itself to be boiled to death. We should not allow the water to be gently brought to boiling point," Amnesty International secretary general Salil Shetty said.

Speaking at a forum on press freedom, Shetty was seeking to illustrate how dangerous it could be if people grew accustomed to those in power meddling in the media. "We do see a worrying pattern - two media attack cases remain unresolved - we wouldn't be firing this warning shot otherwise," he said.

Shetty was referring to recent attacks on journalists, including the brutal chopping attack on former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to in February.

Shetty reminded media bosses that they also stood to gain if reporters were allowed to pursue stories freely without pressure.

"It would be a bit short-sighted for any media house to start curbing the truth," he said.

"At the end of the day, that's what the public are interested in, knowing what the facts are."

As the Basic Law ensured the continued application of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Hong Kong government had "an international law obligation to respect the rights of all people under its jurisdiction, without distinction of any kind", Shetty said.

"But so far … not enough action has been taken; too many cases remain unresolved."

In April, veteran journalist and former mainland detainee Ching Cheong told a panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondents' Club that the city's press freedom "has never been worse". Physical assaults were only one kind of threat to press freedom; censorship had also to be guarded against, he said.

Other recent incidents that raised concerns of attempts to silence the press included Commercial Radio host Li Wei-ling's sacking and Malaysian editor Chong Tien Siong's appointment as Ming Pao principal executive editor.