Hong Kong: unwelcoming place for international media?

For decades, Hong Kong has remained the favourite hub for international media. The Hong Kong authorities were tolerant of dissent. The authorities broke that tradition definitely as they broadened a crackdown on dissent to cover journalists from overseas.

Australian Correspondent Sue-Lin Wong has been denied a work visa by the immigration authorities. He used to work for the Financial Times. He is the fourth foreign journalist to be expelled from the former British colony since 2018, when authorities declined to renew a work permit for Victor Mallet, the then-Asia news editor for the Financial Times, after he hosted a talk by Hong Kong independence activist Andy Chan.

Hong Kong-based Foreign Correspondents’ club recently done a survey on press freedom which has made startling revelations about prevailing conditions for press in Hong Kong. According to the survey, nearly half of foreign journalists were mulling over to leave the city because of tough conditions.

As per the survey, members were concerned about a decline in press freedoms as a result of a comprehensive national security statute enforced by Beijing in the aftermath of major anti-government protests in 2019.

Eighty-three of the 99 journalists admitted that working atmosphere was becoming worse since the national security law was imposed on June 30, 2020. The ordinance, which prohibits subversion, secession, terrorism, and foreign collaboration in city affairs, has been utilised to arrest over 120 people in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

FCC President Keith Richburg demanded that there is a need to restore confidence of journalists and to make sure Hong Kong maintains its decades-long reputation as a welcoming place for the international media. Even since the national security law came into effect, former British colony’s media landscape has changed for the worst. 

Hong Kong is home to several English language news outlets for decades. The former British colony which touts for free flow of information as being among the keys to its success, hosts the offices and regional headquarters of several international media organizations New York Times, Reuters and Bloomberg.

After the national security law came into effect, the international financial centre is on the way to loose the status of favourite place for media persons.

Journalists in Hong Kong do not require special credentials, only a standard work permit that historically has been relatively easy to obtain. As well as a gateway to China, the city has for decades served as a base for journalists to cover the wider region, playing a role in the coverage of major news events such as the Vietnam War and the 1969 Malaysian race riots.

That is no longer the case. Hong Kong Journalists Association’s poll survey found that the level of media freedom in Hong Kong for media workers has plunged to a record low after the imposition of the national security law. Done in May the poll has made startling revelations. 

Approximately 85% of journalists who took part in the survey are concerned about the suppression of press freedom by the Hong Kong government, while 40 percent of them felt pressure from their superiors when covering politically sensitive issues, such as Hong Kong independence.

The vast majority of journalists surveyed have rated the national security law, which was implemented on June 30, 2020, as harmful to press freedom in Hong Kong. The legislation, imposed by Beijing, punishes actions deemed by the authorities as secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces with heavy penalties, including life imprisonment.

However, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urged Hong Kong authorities to stop targeting journalists and media organisations and to respect freedom of the press.

Florence de Changy, a correspondent in Hong Kong for Le Monde and former president of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club, stated that Beijing’s “rectification campaign” since the imposition of a sweeping national security law last year had exceeded people’s worst fears.

Realising the disadvantage of having no foreign media, US and China have decided to ease travel restrictions on each other’s journalists. The move came ahead of strained bilateral ties, China and the United States of America have decided to ease travel restrictions they imposed on each other’s journalists. Will China change its rules for foreign correspondents of easy set. What about correspondents from other countries?

It is time to see where former british colony is move towards. 

Vanguard News Nigeria

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