HUMAN RIGHTS

Hong Kong press freedom sinks to new low in global index

Ranking has fallen from 18 to 70 since global index began; China falls to 176 out of 180 places

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 February, 2015, 1:11am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

Hong Kong has hit a new low on the global rankings for press freedom amid concern Beijing is exerting control over the city, according to the annual report by international watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

The Paris-based group placed Hong Kong 70th in its 2015 world press freedom index, the city's worst ranking since the index was first launched in 2002.

The territory was ranked 61st last year, falling from 58th the year before.

Press freedom in the territory was rated 18th best in the world in 2002, five years after the territory returned to Chinese rule. Its position sank to 56th the following year.

Reporters Without Borders highlighted some events in the past year that had caused particular concern, including the knife attack on former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau Chun-to; implications that Beijing had a hand in the sudden closure of pro-democracy website House News; and accusations of self-censorship by media in coverage of the Occupy Central protests.

China was ranked 176th among the 180 countries and regions surveyed, down one place from 2014 and its lowest ranking since the index began.

Taiwan in 51st place was the best performer in the Far East region. Japan was ranked 61st.

Hong Kong Journalists Association chairman Sham Yee-lan said the Leung Chun-ying administration was to blame. "The government has shown no respect to the press," Sham said. "Our officials now like to write blogs, instead of hosting proper press conferences, to discuss public policy issues."

The press freedom index measures the degree of freedom that reporters, media and netizens enjoy and the efforts made by the governments to ensure respect for this freedom.

It is compiled using information collected from questionnaires sent to partner organisations around the world as well as local journalists, researchers and human rights activists.

The group said: "Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents.

"Two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed for the 2015 index performed less well than in the previous year," it said.

Top of the list is Finland for the fifth year in succession, followed by Norway and Denmark.

The African nation of Eritrea came last, with North Korea and then Turkmenistan in Central Asia just behind it. The United States was ranked 49th, down three places.