New crowdfunded news website launched in Hong Kong

CitizenNews pledges to ‘uphold press freedom’ without political bias

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 9:06pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 10:51pm

A new non-profit Chinese-language news website, founded by 10 veteran journalists including former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to and former Hong Kong Journalists’ Association (HKJA) chairwoman Daisy Li Yuet-wah, launched on Sunday, promising to “uphold press freedom” without political bias.

But some expressed concerns over CitizenNews’ viability – with cash coming from crowdfunding, subscriptions and donations – and it most likely being unable to access government events.

Li, the site’s chief editor, said the site aimed to help debate among people of different views.

Lau, a non-executive director of CitizenNews’s parent company Civic Journalists, said the idea came about three years ago while he was recovering from an attack by two men with a cleaver. He said he and others who visited him during his recovery said then they needed to do something to continue the belief in the professionalism of the industry.

CitizenNews said the operation would cost HK$5 million per year, which it would crowdfund.

“We understand that traditional media faces a lot of challenges, including political and commercial ones as well as those brought about by digitalisation,” Lau said.

“Our establishment is not to criticise or replace traditional media, but to complement it. We are hoping the small step we take can inspire those working in traditional media to also take another small step, and together we can take a big leap towards press freedom.”

Founders also include current HKJA chairwoman Sham Yee-lan and Keung Kwok-yuen, Ming Pao’s former chief executive editor, who was fired earlier this year, to cut costs, according to the paper.

Journalist turned legislator Claudia Mo Man-ching welcomed the new site, but voiced concerns that people were not willing to pay for online media.

She also said CitizenNews would not have access to government events. The government currently denies access to all online media not affiliated with “mass media organisations” for on-the-spot reporting.