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IFJ catalogues ongoing press freedom violations in Hong Kong

On 20 February 2014, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) released a catalogue of press freedom violations in Hong Kong dating back nine months and called on the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-Ying to take steps to protect freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

The list of incidents between June 2013 and February 2014, paints a concerning picture of constricting press freedom in Hong Kong with the IFJ receiving reports of incidents at least every month over the past nine months.

"The IFJ is concerned at the frequency and pattern of media incidents that range from physical attacks and death threats through to attempts to influence media independence by economic forces and direct political interference," the IFJ said.

In issuing this list, the IFJ said the violations show a media that is under pressure and potentially under influence to self-censorship in the face of threat from a multitude of fronts.

"While Hong Kong's Chief Executive and its Legislative Councillors have publicly claimed their respect and support for press freedom in Hong Kong, that commitment also requires concrete action to ensure the principles of press freedom are defended," the IFJ said.

"It is critical that Hong Kong observes Article 27 of the Basic Law, which functions as the constitution of Hong Kong and Section 16 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance says that Hong Kong enjoys freedom of opinion."

Press freedom violations in Hong Kong June 2013 - February 2014


June 2013: Prominent publishers were attacked or received death threats, but no-one was prosecuted in any of the cases. The home of Jimmy Lai, chairman of the Next Media Group, was rear-ended and an axe and a knife were left in the driveway. The publisher of e-magazine iSunaffairs, Chen Ping, was beaten up.

July: The founder of the free newspaper am730, Shih Wing-Ching, was attacked in his car.

August: Two photographers were verbally abused, obstructed and kicked by a retired policeman when they were trying to report on a scuffle at Mongkok, Hong Kong. A trial found the assailant not guilty.

September: An opinion piece by the deputy chief editor of Hong Kong Economic Journal, Yuen Yue-Ching, was withdrawn by the editor-in-chief. The piece criticised Hong Kong's largest free-to-air television station, TVB, for reporting only comments supportive of the Hong Kong chief executive, Leung Chun-Ying, when he appeared at a meet-the-public event.

October: Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) was unsuccessful in its application for a free-to-air broadcast licence. Reports suggested that the decision not to grant the licence was made arbitrarily by the chief executive.

November: Yao Wen-tian, a Hong Kong publisher, was detained in China after he agreed to publish a new book by a prominent dissident writer, Yu Jie, entitled Xi Jinping: The Chinese Godfather. Yu said five or six Hong Kong publishers had refused to publish his new book.

December: Shih Wing-Ching, the owner and founder of the free Hong Kong newspaper am730, said several Mainland-backed companies had suddenly stopped advertising in his newspaper without explanation. A number of advertisers also stopped advertising in the outspoken newspaper Hong Kong Apple Daily.

January 2014: The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, a section of the administration, decided not to submit a revised application to the Legislative Council Public Works Subcommittee for funds to build the New Broadcasting House for Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), the public service broadcaster. The bureau said consensus could not be reached within the Committee.

January: Tiong Hiew King, a Malaysian tycoon who is the Chairperson of Media Chinese International Ltd, decided to remove Kevin Lau Chun-To, editor-in-chief of Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper, despite protests by members of the public and the paper's staff.

February: Li Wei-Ling, a veteran outspoken radio talk show host with Commercial Radio of Hong Kong, was sacked just three months after she was suddenly removed from her popular morning show. Li said she believed the Chief Executive of Hong Kong was suppressing press freedom and Commercial Radio had bowed to government pressure in order to renew its licence, which is due in 2016.

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