The Hong Kong National Security law that was introduced last June is stifling freedom of the press in the former British colony.
Pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily was forced to cease operation on June 24. Apple Daily’s founder Jimmy Lai has been charged with foreign collusion under the national security law.
Following the incident, online pro-democracy outlet Stand News said on June 26 it had taken down commentaries from the platform. Hong Kong’s online media Post 852 announced on June 28 that all films it released previously have been removed from the internet for safety reasons. Winandmac Media also announced that it has moved out of Hong Kong and canceled its business registration in the city.
Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said that the “self-censorship” trend in the media industry has been “blowing fiercely like a hurricane,” and called on journalists to unite and support each other to defend freedom of the press.
HKJA expressed serious concerns over Hong Kong media groups choosing to remove content and even leave Hong Kong for safety reasons. The association pointed out that it’s a reflection of the White Terror (government oppression) that is now penetrating every corner in Hong Kong, largely due to the fact that law enforcement agencies did not articulate its law enforcement criteria.
If the media’s normal operation is threatened, its role as the fourth pillar of democracy will completely come to an end, HKJA stated.
The arrests of Apple Daily editorial writer Yeung Ching-kee and Fung Wai-kong, on June 23 and June 27 respectively, further sent chills to Hong Kong’s journalists.
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah said in an April 26 online article that “freedom of speech is not absolute.” HKJA requires the Hong Kong government and officials to explain in detail what the “boundary” of freedom of speech is when making such statements, and to avoid using “intentions” to determine whether the actions of journalists violate the law.
The HKMA reiterated that “freedom of speech” is the mother of all freedoms in a civilized society, and when freedom of the press, part of freedom of speech, is repeatedly eroded, Hong Kong will no longer be viewed as a civilized city.
Hong Kong’s current prosperity and economic achievements are largely a result of international trust in Hong Kong’s protection of freedom and a well-established system for monitoring those in power. Any Hong Kong citizen who longs for the continued prosperity, continued economic development, and civilian wellbeing should hope for Hong Kong to continue to have unscathed freedom of speech and a healthy media environment, HKJA said.
The association called on all media professionals to get united in face of the most difficult situation, and offer support to each other to protect freedom of press and freedom from fear for the media industry.