Almost one in four people are dissatisfied with the state of press freedom, a record since the change of sovereignty in 1997, a survey shows.
The public opinion programme at the University of Hong Kong interviewed more than 1,000 people early this month for its twice yearly appraisal of local news media.
Of these, 24 per cent said they were dissatisfied with the state of press freedom, almost double the 14 per cent in April. It was the highest rate since the survey started in September 1997.
Some 54 per cent said they were satisfied, a significant drop of 15 per cent from April.
Almost half the respondents perceived that the local news media was practising self-censorship, a slight decrease on the last survey. Some 48 per cent felt the news media had scruples when criticising the mainland government, a drop of seven percentage points, while 31 per cent thought the same when it came to criticising the Hong Kong government, a drop of five points.
Programme director Robert Chung Ting-yiu said people's satisfaction with press freedom had receded significantly "but the general credibility of the news media has not changed much".
Among various types of news media, people are still most satisfied with television, followed by radio. The third and the fourth places are taken by newspapers and the internet, while magazines remain the least favoured.
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said the figures showed the latest trend concerning press freedom might not be directly related to self-censorship but more about the government's handling of media and information.
He said the government had demonstrated a heavy hand in recent months by detaining and charging journalists. Leung's administration also repeatedly refused to publicise senior officials' visits to Beijing ahead of their trips.
"There are no reasons to be optimistic about the future of press freedom," Law said.
"The government must now rethink its role as a source of information and its relationship with the media or the public perception of press freedom will only worsen."