Erosion of press freedom last year in Hong Kong has reduced the city to a 'partly free' status from its previous 'free' category, according to a US press freedom report. The Freedom of the Press Report released last Friday by Freedom House - a social concern group in the United States - said the city's change in status reflected the growing influence of Beijing over media and free expression. It noted that the appointment of 10 owners of Hong Kong media outlets to a mainland political advisory body had resulted in more restrictions on film releases in the period surrounding the Olympics, and reports that critics of Beijing had encountered increasing difficulty in gaining access to the city's media platforms were of particular concern. Of the 195 countries and regions assessed last year, Hong Kong was among 61 that slipped into the 'partly free' category from 'free' status in 2007. Those in the 'partly free' category include Israel and Italy. And along with 63 other places, China's status remained 'not free'. A total of 70 countries and territories were defined as 'free', including the US, Britain and Japan. The report noted a global decline in press freedom, which it said presented 'worrying implications for democratic progress as a whole'. In a report overview, Karin Deutsch Karlekar, senior researcher and managing editor of the freedom of the press research project, described the global decline as a 'modest' drop from the last survey. Ms Karlekar said that the ratings had been determined through an examination of the territory's legal environment, political influences and economic pressures on content and the dissemination of news.