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Press freedom dives in Hong Kong: survey

Tighter controls on information and self-censorship 'among key reasons'

Journalists and editors say restrictions on press freedom have risen sharply in recent years Journalists and editors say restrictions on press freedom have risen sharply in recent years
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong
  • June 25, 2012
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Nearly 87 percent of media workers feel press freedom has worsened, according to a poll released by the Hong Kong Journalists Association yesterday.

The survey, conducted between April 18 and May 4, polled 663 reporters, photographers, editors and media management.

The results show a marked increase over a previous poll from 2007 in which 58.4 percent of journalists thought press freedom had deteriorated over the last decade.

According to the survey, 57.2 percent of those polled said there was “obvious deterioration” in press freedom since Donald Tsang became chief executive in 2005.

A clear majority attributed the change to the government’s tightened grip on the flow of information (92.7 percent), self-censorship in the industry (71 percent) and political interference by Beijing and the central government’s liaison office (67.5 percent).

Among the “darkest moments” noted by respondents were police interference in reporting on the Chinese vice-premier Li Keqiang’s Hong Kong visit last year, pressure from the liaison office on local media and the distortion of an opinion piece by a pro-Beijing paper during the chief executive election this year.

Dominic Lau Chung-yeung, a Catholic journalist in Hong Kong, said the “trend of deterioration” poses a significant threat and has “increased after Hong Kong’s handover in 1997.”

Lau added that the government has reduced the number of press conferences and offers information largely on condition of off-record or anonymous sources.

The survey comes amid public outcry over Wang Xiangwei, editor in chief of the South China Morning Post, who has been criticized for downplaying in print the suspicious death of activist Li Wangyang, who was found hanged in his hospital room earlier this month.

Public protest and heavy media coverage in other papers ultimately led to a call by the Hong Kong government to investigate Li’s death.

The latest Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders also showed a sharp drop in press freedom, with Hong Kong dropping in rank from 34 in 2010 to 54 in 2011-12.

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