Can Hong Kong Journalism Continue to Exist?

Editors in a newsroom instruct reporters not to handle politically touchy issues. Reporters are advised to postpone reporting until the statement from China’s foreign ministry is released. Words that the government would find objectionable are prohibited in news reports. According to local journalists, this is the situation of journalism not only in China but also increasingly in Hong Kong following Beijing’s 2020 adoption of a national security law for the former British territory. There are moments when we don’t feel like journalists. All we are is cogs in the propaganda wheel. We believe that what we were taught in journalism school was useless since it is no longer relevant.

 

According to journalists and studies, Hong Kong’s media landscape has declined since Beijing passed the national security law, which forbade secession, subversion, terrorism, and cooperation with foreign powers. Prior to this, Hong Kong was a model of press freedom in Asia. They also show that prudence is the order of the day, alternative voices are becoming scarce, and self-censorship is becoming the norm. Before the law was passed in 2020, journalists were free to report on news stories almost whatever they wanted, just like in a democracy. Many now worry that if Article 23, a planned new security law, is passed without providing protections for journalists, particularly a public interest defense clause, it will make it increasingly harder to work as a journalist in the city.

 

Article 23 would broaden the definition of crimes and penalties for already-existing ones, such as sedition, and include new offenses such as treason, rebellion, espionage and theft of state secrets, sabotage damaging national security, and external intervention. Many journalists are concerned, according to Ronson Chan, chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the oldest and largest association for local media in the city. He claimed that ever since the national security law enforced by Beijing was implemented, journalists have had to continually weigh the risks involved with “crossing the redline,” particularly since the government hasn’t made it clear exactly where that line is.

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