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The vice tightens: pressure grows on free expression, says HKJA

(HKJA/IFEX) - In its latest annual report on freedom of expression released on July 4th 2010, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has noted a deterioration in the political scene in Hong Kong. It reports that the overall atmosphere has been turning sour - and this is having repercussions for freedom of expression. It points to signs of growing intolerance, including arrests and prosecutions of protesters, as well as scuffles between police and demonstrators.

The annual report - which is titled "The Vice Tightens: Pressure Grows on Free Expression in Hong Kong" - highlights several incidents in which media freedoms have come under threat. They include the decision that the government-owned Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) should remain a government department - despite pleas from the public and non-governmental organisations, including the HKJA, that it should be hived off to become a truly independent public service broadcaster.

The government has also made only superficial changes to the Telecommunications Ordinance, which governs the licensing of radio broadcasters. This comes despite calls from the HKJA for a radical revamp of the system, with the aim of promoting media diversity.

The HKJA states that the government has failed to meet its international commitments - under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - to uphold freedom of expression and press freedom. It calls on the government to take a much more robust approach towards this vital freedom. Such an approach should include reversing its decision to retain RTHK as a government department, creating an independent platform for public access television and radio services and carrying out a comprehensive review of broadcasting legislation to ensure greater media diversity.

On the law reform front, the HKJA is calling for the government to enact a freedom of information ordinance and to resist pressure to bring forward national security legislation, following the passage of such a law in Macau. It also calls on the government to review its policy and attitude towards dissent, including policing, arrests and harassment of protesters. In this regard, the HKJA highlights the need to abolish restrictive provisions in the Public Order Ordinance.

Read the report

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