Press freedom in Hong Kong

Perception of Hong Kong press freedom declines for second year, according to Journalists Association survey

Journalists and members of the public also say that self-censorship has become more common

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2016, 8:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2016, 8:43pm

The perception of press freedom in Hong Kong deteriorated for a second consecutive year, according to the latest survey by the Hong Kong Journalists Association, with both journalists and members of the public saying self-censorship had become more common.

A significant 85 per cent of media workers surveyed for the annual Hong Kong Press Freedom Index felt that the freedom had declined over the past year, a stance shared by over half of general public respondents.

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The overall Press Freedom Index for the public declined 1.4 points to 47.7 out of 100.

For the first time since the survey was carried out three years ago, the decline in the public’s score was sharper than the fall in the score given by journalists, which went down 0.7 points year-on-year to 38.2 points.

“This shows that the deterioration in press freedom in Hong Kong is very severe. Not only media workers but the public have also noticed this problem”, HKJA chairwoman Sham Yee-lan said.

The Press Freedom Index is made up of two polls conducted from January to February.

Over 1,000 members of the public and 446 journalists participated in the surveys.

The association said self-censorship was cited by both groups as one of the biggest problems confronting media workers.

The journalists surveyed gave a score of 7.1 out of 10 when asked about the prevalence of self-censorship.

Public respondents also thought the problem had worsened, giving it a score of 5.8, which was 0.2 points up from last year.

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Vice-chairwoman Shirley Yam said censorship in the city had become “a genuine fear” in the aftermath of bookseller Lee Po’s disappearance.

“This fear will certainly affect our day-to-day work, in terms of how vocal we should be in writing our commentaries as well as reporting on mainland-related stories”, she said.

The survey also highlighted other factors participants felt had hampered press freedom in Hong Kong.

Eighty-eight per cent of journalists and 57 per cent of the public surveyed felt that Alibaba’s purchase of the South China Morning Post had damaged press freedom in Hong Kong - a claim rejected by both parties.

Both members of the public and journalists also noted that local media had been reluctant in criticising the central government.

To ensure the maintenance of press freedom, which the HKJA described as a cornerstone of the city’s success, it called on officials to be more open with the press.

The association also urged the government to enact a freedom of information law as soon as possible.

“If Hong Kong doesn’t enact such legal protection, journalists’ hard work would only yield half the result,” Sham said.