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May 6, 2021
【The 25th Human Rights Press Awards Winners' Joint Statement】
Freedom of the press in Hong Kong is facing unprecedented challenges. Journalists are having a difficult time fulfilling their fourth estate. We are honored to be the winners of the 25th Human Rights Press Awards. We would like to take this opportunity to express our concerns about the current situation in Hong Kong and call on all sectors to respect and act to protect press freedom.
Over the past year, the space for freedom of expression has been rapidly shrinking. The dramatic change in the political climate has led to fears of human rights regression. The latest Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index shows that Hong Kong ranks at a historic low. The press is now experiencing unprecedented turbulence. The authorities have tightened the definition of “media representative” without prior consultation and have conducted massive raids on news organizations. Recently the authorities accused some media reports of sedition, in an attempt to mould public opinion into its agenda of enacting new laws against so-called “fake news”.
One of the winners of this year's Human Rights Press Awards, the team from RTHK's Hong Kong Connection, found clues about the 721 Yuen Long Attack through the public registry, but the journalist who pursued the truth, Bao Choy, became a defendant in court. RTHK won several awards at this year's Human Rights Press Awards, ironically, one of the award-winning staff, Nabela Qoser, didn't get her contract extended. RTHK even allegedly rejected the awards and withdrew entries from competitions. The public broadcaster also arbitrarily pulled down several episodes from their programs and deleted archives from its online platforms. All these moves not only threaten freedom but also create fear. With fear comes worsening self-censorship, hence, weakening the public's right to know and monitor.
Freedom of the press and human rights are inextricably linked. Article 19 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression; Article 16 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, which is enacted based on the Covenant, specifically states that this right includes “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, in the form of speech, writing, publication, art, or by any other means of one's choice”. Right to freedom of expression manifests in press freedom, in which journalists are free to transmit information, and the public is free to seek and receive different ideas.
From time to time, some claimed that "journalists have no privilege" or "press freedom is not absolute". Indeed, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution and legal provisions endowed journalists with special status. It is the role of the fourth estate to monitor those in power on behalf of the public entitles the press to different treatments. The press is granted "protection" rather than "privilege." The Basic Law, to which the Hong Kong government has repeatedly referred, emphasizes freedom of the press in its Article 27. Such protection comes from respect for human rights.
Journalists are at the forefront of documenting history. In today's social climate, we cannot stand alone but are the first to come under pressure. We urge the government to stop obstructing the work of frontline journalists, and call on all sectors of the community to support the press in various positions and to keep an eye on the relevant reports. The once free soil of Hong Kong has nurtured generations of journalists who have dedicated themselves to truth-telling. We hope that the press and the public will join hands to protect the truth in the bitter winter and to safeguard the remaining free space. With a pen in hand and the truth in our hearts, may the freedom from fear and favour prevail.
*This statement is issued by the winners of the Human Rights Press Awards in his or her own name and is not affiliated with his or her organization or the organizers of the award.
As of 8:00 pm on May 6, 2021, there are a total of 56 Human Right Press Awards winners and “a group of journalists whose names cannot be disclosed” co-signed the joint statement. For a detailed list, please refer to: https://forms.gle/qjs2PXebiyaecC3o7. All previous Human Rights Press Awards winners are welcome to join, and new co-signers will be updated on Google Form.