Journalist Associations in Hong Kong Demand Protection Under the New Security Law

The two main journalist associations in the city expressed fears that the controversial new security law will have “profound” repercussions for journalists’ capacity to conduct their jobs during the public consultation session on the law, which was recently concluded by the Hong Kong government and ended last week. The national security law Beijing placed on the city in 2020, which forbade secession, subversion, terrorism, and cooperation with foreign forces, will be expanded by the new law, known locally as Article 23. In addition to sedition, it would broaden the definition of crimes and impose harsher sentences for treason, insurrection, espionage, stealing state secrets, sabotage that jeopardizes national security, and outside intervention.

 

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong (FCCHK) and the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), both with approximately 300 journalist members, urged the government to include a public interest defense clause in the new law to protect journalists. They argued that even if they didn’t intend to break the law, they could unintentionally do so while covering news stories. These submissions were made to the Security Bureau as part of the consultation process. Diplomats, businesspeople, artists, and other journalism supporters are among the more than 2,000 members of the FCCHK, which declared that doing so was “paramount” and urged the government to “keep press freedom front of mind and make it clear that journalists would not be targeted for doing their jobs.”

 

The government was encouraged by the Hong Kong Journalists Association to “avoid causing irreversible damage to press freedom and provide sufficient protection for the press in its draft bill.” The two associations claimed that the draft legislation’s definition and list of crimes, which included sedition, foreign intervention, and theft of state secrets, were excessively wide and would interfere with journalists’ ability to conduct their jobs. The organizations worry that when journalists quote foreign organizations that are critical of the government, they could be accused of aiding and abetting foreign meddling, charged with stealing state secrets, and labeled as seditious for quoting government critics or publishing critical editorials.

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