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"Threatened Harbor": Press freedom waning in Hong Kong, new study finds

New PEN report documents confluence of attacks on critical news media

Police officers detain Getty Images photographer Paula Bronstein during a confrontation between police and pro-democracy protesters at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong, 17 October 2014
Police officers detain Getty Images photographer Paula Bronstein during a confrontation between police and pro-democracy protesters at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong, 17 October 2014

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

This statement was originally published on pen.org on 16 January 2015.

The deterioration of press freedom has accelerated over the past year in Hong Kong, coinciding with a period of rising political tension, according to a new report released by PEN American Center today at a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong. Threatened Harbor: Encroachments on Press Freedom in Hong Kong brings together news reports, first-person commentary, and legal precedent to expose the shrinking environment for free expression in the territory as it marks more than 17 years under mainland Chinese control.

Local and foreign correspondents have long made use of Hong Kong's unique geopolitical position and strong protections for freedom of expression to report on news from across Asia, free from the harsh constraints and censorship that stifle the press in mainland China. But according to PEN's report, Hong Kong's position as a media hub and harbor for press freedom is increasingly insecure. The report documents targeted economic pressures on pro-democracy newspapers and broadcast stations, staff reshufflings at major news organizations that have been interpreted as efforts to silence critical voices, cyber attacks against online media, and unresolved cases of physical violence against journalists.

"Some of the most independent journalists and media outlets in Hong Kong are now operating in an increasingly unfriendly environment, constricting their ability to investigate and freely cover the news," said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN American Center. "The confluence of attacks - economic, physical, and cyber - on press and media outlets in Hong Kong, coinciding with a period of political turmoil, drives suspicion about the future of press freedom in this crucial media hub. While the forces behind these incidents are shadowy, the pattern of interference and intimidation is hard to mistake."

The report calls on the government of Hong Kong to thoroughly investigate reported physical attacks on journalists and implement stronger protections for free speech online, and calls on the international community and press organizations to monitor and document press freedom violations in Hong Kong and to publicly support freedom of expression there.

Download the full report.
hong_kong_threatened_harbor_penamerican.pdf (6478 KB)

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
  • Hong Kong Commissioner ignores best practice protocol

    The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has criticized the ongoing actions of Hong Kong's Commissioner of Police and his failure to publicly disclose official trips until the missions are concluded. The IFJ has called on the Hong Kong government to investigate the commissioner’s action for a breach of public duty.

  • Journalist barred from covering protest in Hong Kong

    The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticizes the actions of the Hong Kong Police in barring a journalist from covering a protest in Hong Kong on February 8. Such acts violate and weaken press freedom in the city.



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