By Hiram Liu, Claire Li, Tom Grundy & Lukas Messmer
It has been a tough year for press freedom in Hong Kong with Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Al-Jazeera all reporting on the declining state of media freedoms in the city.
There were six attacks on journalists in the past year, advertisers have been withdrawing from media critical of the establishment and HouseNews – a popular liberal news website – was forced to close this summer after its owner was threatened. Late last year, a new television broadcaster, HKTV, was denied a free-to-air licence – mass protests ensued as demonstrators complained that the government’s decision was a political one. The Hong Kong Journalists Association recently stated that it has been “the darkest year in decades” for media freedom as media owners become fearful of harming business interests in the mainland.
Diversity without plurality
Though Hong Kong is home to a wide range of print media titles, there is a deficit in terms of political plurality. There is a surplus of publications on the ‘pro-establishment’ side – some of which are direct mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party. Newspapers such as Wen Wei Po, Sing Tao, Oriental Daily, The Sun and Ta Kung Pao – which are supportive of pro-Beijing viewpoints – are balanced only by the Apple Daily, a tabloid, on the opposing ‘pro-democracy’ end of spectrum. The South China Morning Post and Ming Pao occupy the middle-ground, albeit with an increasing slant towards Beijing.