Sunday, 23 February 2014

Free the Press

Press freedom marchers on the streets of Hong Kong
This afternoon Hong Kong journalists and concerned citizens marched from Chater Garden in Central to the Chief Executive's office in Tamar, Admiralty to voice their fears about eroding freedom of the press and speech in the city.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association organized the "Free Speech, Free Hong Kong" march, and believed some 6,000 people took part -- six times the original estimate. However police claimed there were 2,200 at the peak of the rally in Central and 1,600 during the march.

A number of worrying trends have occurred in quick succession, including the abrupt dismissal of Commercial Radio host Li Wei-ling, who is known for her criticisms of the government, and that newspapers like Apple Daily and AM730 are hit financially because mainland-backed companies and banks have pulled adverts because of the papers' stance.

"If the freedom of press and speech is lost, other rights and freedom that Hong Kongers are entitled to would also be affected, as the media would no longer be able to speak for the people," said Ken Lui Tze-lok, a HKJA committee member.

Bao Choy Yuk-ling, chairperson of the RTHK programme staff union said, "The media in Hong Kong is currently under severe threat, and our union understands that the work of public broadcast could not stand alone. We hope a united action could help safeguarding the freedom."

It is not only the local media who feel Hong Kong is sliding the slippery slope towards censorship, but also Reporters Without Borders. In its annual report Hong Kong was in 18th position in 2002 and has now plunged to 61st out of 180 countries this year.

Meanwhile the Hong Kong government claims it safeguards press freedom in the present and future.

"As freedom of the press and freedom of speech are the major elements in sustaining Hong Kong's status as an international metropolis and continuous development, the Hong Kong government will continue to strive to safeguard these vital core values," a government spokesman said.

Then can the Leung administration explain Hong Kong's drop in press freedom of 43 places in 12 years? And this isn't even from before the handover, but after.

There were rumours over a week ago that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying would not attend the start of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon because he was annoyed that the bank had placed advertisements in Apple Daily, his main media nemesis.

If this is true, why has the city's politics deteriorated to settling petty scores?

One feels the chaos in Hong Kong is due to the government's inaction or blind decisions, leaving its citizens to fend for themselves. There are so many issues that need to be earnestly dealt with -- from the flood of mainlanders to property prices, the city's capacity and air quality -- that the government doesn't seem to be taking a decisive leadership role.

As a result grassroots movements have to stand up for people's concerns otherwise they will not be heard. Meanwhile the pan-democrats theoretically stand together, but they are too busy criticizing each other to represent what Hong Kong people want.

It's basically become every man, woman and child for him or herself because the government isn't listening or frankly doesn't care.

Which is why we need a free press more than ever to voice everyone's opinions, good and bad.


  1. Were you at the march today?

    1. Hi YTSL -- I wish I was... I had already planned to meet a friend who I haven't seen for a long time so it seemed bad form to cancel...