Carrie Lam
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Thousands of Hong Kong journalists stage a silent march from Admiralty to the police headquarters in Wan Chai on July 14 against the police’s treatment of frontline reporters during the recent anti-extradition bill protests. Photo: Edmond So

Letters | Amid Hong Kong protests, five steps Carrie Lam should take to protect press freedom

  • The attacks on journalists covering the extradition bill protests, culminating in the violence against the press at Yuen Long station, are cause for alarm
  • The government should withdraw the extradition bill, deal seriously with those who threaten journalists and remain transparent in engaging with the media
Carrie Lam

Dear Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor,

Reporters Without Borders, an international organisation defending freedom of information, is extremely alarmed by the current climate of violence against journalists in Hong Kong. During the mass demonstrations over the last two months, police and pro-Beijing demonstrators have attacked journalists on numerous occasions.
Violence culminated on July 21 at Yuen Long MTR station when mobsters viciously attacked civilians, including journalists, while law enforcement looked the other way. In a report published on July 7, the Hong Kong Journalists Association deplored “one of the worst years” for journalists since the handover and denounced a deliberate policy to restrict journalistic freedoms. In the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, Hong Kong’s ranking has plummeted from 18th in 2002 to 73rd this year.
We urge you to take immediate and proactive action to reverse this decline and ensure the full enforcement of freedom of the press, a right that is spelt out in the Basic Law and which it is your duty as the chief executive to uphold.
Members of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club stage a silent protest outside the club building in Central on July 23 to defend press freedom and fight violence against journalists during the recent anti-extradition bill protests. Photo: Nora Tam

We suggest focusing on five key points:

1. Unequivocally withdraw the extradition bill, which is widely feared to pose a major threat to journalists and their sources in Hong Kong.

2. Ensure that law enforcement refrains from any violence or coercion against journalists and protects them any time their safety is threatened.

3. Ensure that those who call for, order, perpetrate, or glorify violent acts against journalists are being prosecuted and punished; establish an independent commission to investigate acts of brutality.

4. Enforce the highest level of transparency on public affairs for the media.

5. Give clear instructions to all members of the Hong Kong administration to support freedom of the press and facilitate the work of journalists by all means.

Cameraman who shielded officer showed what’s right with city

We are convinced that these five measures, if set up under your mandate, would contribute to reinforcing the trust between Hong Kong residents and the administration and strengthening the international prestige of Hong Kong. Our association would be happy to put its expertise at your service so that your administration can get the quickest and most effective results implementing our proposals.

Christophe Deloire, secretary general, Reporters Without Borders, Paris