News industry split into opposing camps

  • The media in Hong Kong are divided, much like our society itself
  • And the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association is not only in the fray, it often starts the fight
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 9:40pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 10:30pm

Some people insist on calling the Hong Kong Journalists Association a media watchdog. But it has not bothered with neutrality for a long time.

Its political stance is closely aligned with the anti-mainland and anti-communist ideologies of the yellow-ribbon localist movement and some anti-China publications. That’s fine; it’s a free city. But by virtue of its partisanship, it has no independent authority.

Online news platform HK01 happens to be one of the few mainstream outlets that are relatively neutral and non-partisan. So it’s ironic that the association has singled it out for criticism. That has to do with a recent profile in HK01 of Taiwan’s heavy metal musician and pro-independence lawmaker Freddy Lim Tshiong-tso, who was denied entry into Hong Kong to perform at a local concert.

The profile is a model of neutral reporting. Drawing a link between his music and politics, the report is not just fair, but almost sympathetic. That may be why the editors felt the need to state at the end of the article in parentheses that HK01’s editorial stance is against Taiwan independence. Given the sensitivity of the subject in Hong Kong and the mainland, it’s perfectly understandable.

Indeed, HK01 should be applauded for daring forthrightly to address the taboo subject and profile a prominent proponent banned from entering Hong Kong. But the association still finds faults with it.

“We hold the view that it is unnecessary for HK01 to state their position in their news report,” the association said in a statement. “Doing so will give rise to worries that the media might have something to fear when they report sensitive issues.”

But why is it any of its business when HK01 hadn’t censored its own story but merely added a brief clarification?

There is nothing unusual, in Hong Kong or anywhere else, for responsible news groups or any public institutions to clarify their stances when dealing with controversial figures and issues.

The association likes to tell everyone press freedom in Hong Kong is going down the drain. A more complete picture is rather that the local news industry has been bifurcated into opposing camps, much like our divided society itself. After all, the media are but a reflection of the state of the societies in which they operate.

The association is not only in the fray; it often starts the fight.