HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong has plummeted down an international press freedom chart as authorities have wielded a draconian new security law to silence critical news outlets and jail journalists, a new report said on Tuesday (May 3).
For two decades, media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has ranked countries and territories around the world by how free their press is.
Hong Kong, a regional media hub for both international and local media, has been steadily slipping down the table under Chinese rule.
In the last year alone it has plunged 68 places to 148th, sandwiching the international business hub between the Philippines and Turkey.
“It is the biggest downfall of the year, but it is fully deserved due to the consistent attacks on freedom of the press and the slow disappearance of the rule of law in Hong Kong,” Mr Cedric Alviani, head of RSF’s Taiwan-based East Asia bureau, told AFP.
“In the past year we have seen a drastic, drastic move against journalists,” he added.
China has imposed increasingly authoritarian strictures on Hong Kong following large-scale and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests three years ago.
It implemented a sweeping national security law in 2020 that has since crushed dissent and seen dozens of democracy activists jailed as well as journalists.
Focus on international media
Mr Alviani said authorities initially used the law to pursue political opponents and democracy activists, but throughout 2021 it began to increasingly be deployed against local media.
Mr Alviani said RSF’s database now lists 13 Hong Kong media workers as being in jail, a number he said was “enormous” and equivalent to almost ten percent of all known journalist detentions in China.
China has consistently been ranked by RSF as one of the world’s most hostile countries for journalists, and currently sits at 175th out of 180.
But until recently Hong Kong was a comparative oasis of free speech thanks to a “One Country, Two Systems” formula, in which Beijing promised the city could keep key freedoms and autonomy for 50 years after the 1997 handover by Britain.