Press freedom in former British colony declined sharply after Beijing imposed national security law in 2020
Riot police pepper spray a group of journalists in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020. (Photo: AFP)
Hong Kong’s largest journalists’ union says it has received reports that several journalists are being tailed allegedly by law enforcers, a charge the police flatly denied as “unverified speculation.”
In a public letter to the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), the police expressed “deep regret” and “strong discontent” over the allegations and urged the press to publish “accurate and fair” reports, the Hong Kong Free Press reported on March 28.
The association was “making unverified speculation citing journalists’ suspicions that those following them were law enforcement officers,” the police said in the statement.
“Apart from harming the reputation of all law enforcement officers it also destroys the professional image of journalists making reports and comments based on facts,” the police said.
The police also reiterated their stand that they would continue to facilitate an environment conducive “professionally and safely” for journalistic work.
The association was also urged to “avoid publishing unverified and inaccurate reports and commentaries that could misguide people.”
"Police personnel had followed a female HKFP reporter from her workplace to her home"
The police response came after the journalists’ group issued a statement on March 27 that it received reports from “different media outlets and journalists” about reporters being followed by unidentified men last week.
“When the personal safety of journalists, especially court reporters, is at risk, it will make members of the public, and Hong Kong citizens, including the HKJA concerned about press freedom,” the association said in its statement.
“[The] worry that someone is [attempting] to use threatening means to harm the exercise of reporters’ rights to gather news,” the association said.
The journalists’ association said that it had received multiple reports of the alleged tailing of journalists who went to a court to cover the Stand News trial last week.
The association also believed that police personnel had followed a female HKFP reporter from her workplace to her home last week.
It said that it was “very concerned” about instances of reporters being tailed by plain-clothed police.
Suspicion were raised by the association “based on their [the pursuers] behavior and outfits.”
The association called for an inquiry “in order to ensure that journalists in Hong Kong can exercise freedom of speech, expression, and of the press as protected by Article 27 of the Basic Law without worrying about their personal safety when gathering news.”
"Top executives face court cases and imprisonment in a coordinated government effort to suppress dissent"
Hong Kong has seen a rapid decline in press freedom since Beijing imposed a draconian National Security Law in the former British colony in 2020.
Prominent news outlets such as Apple Daily and Stand News have closed and their top executives face court cases and imprisonment in a coordinated government effort to suppress dissent.
Jimmy Lai, the founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily, has been sentenced to around 6 years in jail for fraud for violating the leasing terms of his newspaper’s office complex — which activists say is a trumped-up charge to silence him.
Dozens of politicians, activists, and journalists who support democracy have been harassed, arrested and jailed over the past several years.
Such rights violations in Hong Kong has sparked international criticism.
The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights took cognizance of the rights situation in the region in its third periodic report on China, including Hong Kong and Macau released on March 6.
Referring to Hong Kong, the committee said that it “is concerned about reports of arrests, detentions, and trials without due process of civil society actors, journalists, human rights defenders, [and] lawyers working on human rights,” the report read.
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