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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

HK press freedom ranking plummets

Hong Kong has nosedived to almost the bottom of an international press freedom chart as authorities have wielded a draconian new security law to silence critical news outlets and jail journalists, according to a report published by Reporters Without Borders.
Hong Kong has been ranked 148th out of 180 countries and regions in the world for press freedom in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders yesterday.

The SAR plunged 68 places, from 80th last year to 148th - a rank that identifies it as a place with a "difficult" press freedom situation - making it the SAR's largest drop in ranking and lowest rank ever. The international business hub's new rank sees it sandwiched between the Philippines and Turkey.

The report said since two major independent news outlets - Apple Daily and Stand News - were shut down last year, numerous smaller-scale media outlets also ceased operations, citing legal risks.

The national security law enshrines "freedom of speech, of the press and of publication," the report said. "But due to its ambiguous phrasing, the law looks like it could apply to any journalist covering Hong Kong, regardless of their location."

Hong Kong Journalists Association said the ranking reflects the past year of turmoil Hong Kong has been through.

Many media organizations have shut down while several journalists have been detained for articles that are allegedly harmful to national security or deemed seditious, HKJA said.

HKJA called on the government and community to uphold the commitments made by the central government to ensure Hong Kong people can enjoy fundamental rights which are natural and protected under the basic law.

Hong Kong once had a press freedom ranking of 18th in the world, in 2002, but has declined since.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Correspondents' Club said the Human Rights Press Awards would be hosted by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism of Arizona State University next year and FCC would not play any role in it.

Keith Richburg, president of FCC, yesterday said "continuing the Award in the current political climate would have posed a real and immediate risk.

"We will continue to speak out on issues directly impacting the media when it is appropriate and always within the law - since the basic law also allows for free expression," he said.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said Hong Kong's press freedom, like other individual rights and freedoms, is enshrined in the basic law.

"In the 25 years since reunification, press freedom has been guaranteed," Lam said.

But journalists and media organizations are not above the law and have to comply with the laws of Hong Kong, she said, including the security law.

"If they have breached the law, then, of course, the law enforcement bodies will have to take necessary action," Lam said.

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