May 27, 2024, Monday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Press freedom at risk in Hong Kong, says RSF

The Nepal Weekly
April 23, 2024
Hong Kong Island - Wikipedia

Press freedom in Hong Kong has been ”fully protected” since the territory’s handover to China 25 years ago,  Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning  claimed during a press meet on 11 April 2024, following a question regarding the detention and deportation of a RSF representative out of Hong Kong airport the day before. 

 “To claim that press freedom reigns in Hong Kong is a blatant lie that does not withstand scrutiny. In recent years, the Chinese regime and the Hong Kong authorities have been leading an unprecedented campaign against independent journalism which notably resulted in the closing of eight media outlets and the prosecution for crimes against the state of a large number of journalists. We urge democracies to build up pressure so that press freedom is fully restored in the territory,” said Reporters Without Border (RSF) in a statement.

RSF has pointed out following 10 facts illustrating the downfall of the territory’s press freedom:

1 – To date, ten journalists and press freedom defenders are detained in Hong Kong, including Jimmy Lai, publisher and laureate of the 2020 RSF Press Freedom Prize, who faces the rest of his life behind bars on trumped-up national security law charges.

2 – Independent media outlets Apple Daily and Stand News were forcibly shut down in 2021 while the climate of fear led at least five other media outlets to cease operations. Most recently, broadcaster Radio Free Asia also announced it would close its bureau citing security concerns.

3 – Draconian national security and sedition provisions pose a constant threat to journalists. Since 2020, at least 28 journalists have been prosecuted for crimes against the state under the National Security Law (NSL) imposed by Beijing and other laws. Last month, the government adopted the “Article 23” law, which transposes in the domestic law the NSL provisions and introduces new offences such as espionage.

4 – In 2024 only, according to AFP, Hong Kong authorities have sent at least seven letters accusing foreign media outlets, including the BBC, RFA, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times and Bloomberg, of publishing “misleading” articles about the newly-enacted “Article 23” national security provisions.

5 – Public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) has been placed under a government-appointed management. Previously renowned for its independent tone and fearless investigations, public broadcaster RTHK has been placed in 2022 under a government-appointed management that since openly applies censorship over the group’s productions and archives.

6 –  Press freedom organisations and journalist associations have been harassed for years. Hong Kong Journalist Association (HKJA) chairman Ronson Chan was sentenced in 2023 to five days in prison for allegedly obstructing a police officer, while HKJA, an organisation with very modest income, was recently ordered to retroactively pay a whopping HK$400,000 (around €50,000) taxes.

7 – A large number of Hong-Kong based journalists experienced being followed and surveilled and hundreds of them were forced to go on exile. At least 900 journalists also lost their jobs due to the closure of the independent media that employed them.

8 – News articles and op-eds are used as evidence in court against press freedom defenders and journalists. In the ongoing Stand News trial, for example, 17 articles have been used as evidence to prosecute two editors-in-chief, who face a maximum of 2 years in prison for sedition. 

9 – Last year, at least three freelance journalists were barred from entering the territory on separate occasions. Upon their arrival, Japanese reporters Michiko Kiseki and Yoshiaki Ogawa, and US reporter Matthew Connors, who all three documented the 2019 pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, were questioned about their past reporting, and briefly detained, before being denied entry without further explanation.

10 – Hong Kong ranks 140th out of 180 in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, having plummeted from 18th place in two decades. China itself ranks 179th out of 180 countries and territories evaluated.

West Terai and Madhesh to face loo for next five days

The government has cautioned the denizens of West Terai and Madhesh regions to take precaution from hot air that could happen for the next five days.

Issuing a notice on Monday, the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DoHM) showed the possibility of a wave of hot and dry air or loo in the aforementioned areas until April 26. The department has urged the people concerned to take necessary precautions to remain safe from the possible hot wave.

The DoHM has recorded an excessive rise in the temperature mainly in Madhesh region including Lumbini Province and lowlands of Sudurpaschim Province in recent days. On Monday, the temperature in these regions was recorded at a maximum of 40 degrees Celsius. The loo occures when the temperature rises above 40 degree Celsius.

Along with the excessive rise in temperature in the Terai region, the DoHM has cited the possibility of surge in temperature also in a number of valleys of the hill regions. The department has urged the locals in the hill regions also to adopt cautionary measures.

Fatigue, weakness, thirst, headache, muscle cramp, dizziness, muscle pain and vomiting can be caused by loo. The DoHM has further suggested people stay home, in cool places, wear cotton clothes, cover their heads while walking outside, and increase the intake of juice and water to avoid the effects of heat waves. In case of health problems, consultation with health workers and medical persons has been advised.