Artistic, journalistic freedom on the decline in Hong Kong

Artistic, journalistic freedom on the decline in Hong Kong

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The Hong Kong Journalists Association Chairperson Sham Yee-lan.
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP

Curbs on freedom are being felt across Hong Kong. One playwright worries that artistic freedom in the city could be under threat from political interference, after the government stopped a theatre producer from publishing the full name of her Taiwanese alma mater in a programme leaflet as it contained the word “national”.

Speaking to Young Post yesterday, Candace Chong Mui-ngam, a freelance playwright and spokeswoman for the concern group Artists Action, is worried that the government is censoring the creative arts.

“The Leisure and Cultural Services Department is overly-sensitive on the issue. I doubt this is an isolated case, as they seem to censor our personal information and political attitude,” says Chong. “What happens if this continues, or if we show an anti-government attitude? Would they [ban] our performance, or cut our budget? I’m worried they no longer respect artistic freedom.”

In radio, after what was seen as an unusually long consideration period, the government finally approved a 12-year licence extension for both Commercial Radio and Metro Broadcast. The confirmation came 10 months after the Communications Authority recommended licence renewal, and only five months before the stations’ licences were to expire. Normally, one year’s notice is given.

Commerce and economic development minister Gregory So Kam-leung denied that political considerations were involved in reviewing the broadcasters’ performance.

“The authorities have definitely not procrastinated on the application for licence renewal,” So said, hours after the Executive Council approved it.

But to get their licence renewals, the broadcasters had to promise to “revise their written guidelines to strengthen guidance to their staff” to “ensure strict compliance with the impartiality requirements” for factual programmes.

And the latest survey by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) shows the perception of press freedom in Hong Kong has gone down for the second year in a row, with both journalists and members of the public saying self-censorship was more common. A significant 85 per cent of media workers surveyed for the Hong Kong Press Freedom Index felt that the freedom had declined over the past year, a stance shared by more than half of public respondents.

“This shows that the deterioration in press freedom in Hong Kong is very severe. Not only media workers but the public have also noticed this problem,” said HKJA chairwoman Sham Yee-lan (pictured, above).

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