Updated at 6.32pm: Subtle and indirect pressures are being exerted on Hong Kong's media, according to a United State's 2000 international Human Right's Report released on Tuesday. The 43 page report by the US State Department said although the SAR generally respected human rights, self-censorship by journalists and interference by mainland officials and business leaders was a problem. ''There is a widespread impression among both journalists and the public that it is prudent for the press to engage in a degree of self-censorship. ''There is a widely shared perception of a need for special care towards topics of particular sensitivity to China or Hong Kong's powerful business interests,'' the report said. With advertising revenue in mind, editorial management was unlikely to promote causes such as the Falun Gong, Taiwanese and Tibetan independence or criticise the central government and business leaders, it said. ''Chinese-language journalists report a pervasive, if tacit, understanding that editors expect those reporting on China to be particularly certain of their facts and careful in their wording,'' the report said. Some incidents cited in the report included Hong Kong University pollsters coming under political pressure and the resignation of China columnist Willy Wo Lap Lam from the South China Morning Post. Mr Lam's departure had been viewed by ''many observers'' as an example of media self-censorship, the report said. In response to the report, Robert Keatley, Editor of the South China Morning Post, said: ''I made many efforts to convince Willy Wo-Lap Lam to stay associate editor and weekly columnist but he declined to do so. ''He said he had decided to leave the paper in the near future in any case and had been in discussions with prospective employers. In recent months our news and features coverage of China has been expanded and improved,'' he said. Commenting on the report, the Home Affairs Bureau conceded self-censorship existed, but played down its significance. ''The companies exercise control over themselves, they are in no way pressured by the Government to do so ... the issue is not very serious,'' a spokeswoman said. ''Media is flourishing in Hong Kong. Everywhere you look, you can see all sorts of reports, including those that criticise the Government strongly.'' However, Hong Kong Journalist's Association Vice-Chairman Gren Manuel said journalists should not be blamed for self-censorship. ''It is not their choice because self-censorship happens as a result of outside forces, journalists don't make the decisions. The report also discussed attempts by the mainland to stifle press freedom. Examples it mentioned were: the Liason Office's request that the media not report views advocating Taiwan's independence, the blocking and censorship of a chatroom by a mainland-affiliated company and October outburst from President Jiang Zemin, when he accused local reporters of low standards. Mr Manuel said: ''The Government, as a leader, needs to take a clear stance to show that it supports press freedom.''. ''Also issues such as the fact that some media companies are owned by friends of Beijing officials must be addressed,'' he added. The report also cited laws such as the Telecommunications Ordinance, which allows the Government to ban messages in the sake of public interest, and the Public Order Ordinance, which prevent public demonstrations relating to national security, as threats to the freedom of expression. Other topics covered included limited political and legislative freedoms, excessive force by police, human trafficking, discrimination against the disabled and ethnic minorities and intimidation of overseas domestic servants. ''This report is generally accurate ... but it understates some key problems such as self-censorship, influence from Beijing and media ownership,'' Mr Manuel said. ''It only touches, but refuses to analyse the real issues at play.''