Home / INTERNATIONAL / Media Freedom Coalition Condemns Stand News Closure and Hong Kong’s Press Freedom Erosion

Media Freedom Coalition Condemns Stand News Closure and Hong Kong’s Press Freedom Erosion

-Editorial

In a joint declaration, members of the Media Freedom Coalition (MFC) express deep concern over ongoing assaults on press freedom by Hong Kong and mainland Chinese authorities. The imposition of the National Security Law in June 2020 has led to increased self-censorship among local media, while prosecutions under sedition legislation have risen, jeopardizing the autonomy promised in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Stand News was a free non-profit online news website based in Hong Kong from 2014 to 2021. Founded in December 2014, it was the successor of House News. It primarily focused on social and political issues in Hong Kong and generally took a pro-democracy editorial position.

Stand News was ranked highest in credibility among online news media in Hong Kong in two public opinion surveys conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2016 and 2019.

On 29 December 2021, amid the backdrop of increasing government suppression of news media following the 2020 enactment of the Hong Kong national security law, Stand News was raided by the Hong Kong Police Force, who arrested senior staff and froze the company’s assets. As a result, similar to Apple Daily earlier the same year, Stand News was forced to dismiss its staff and cease operations.

In remembrance of the second anniversary of this event, the following statement was signed by the Governments of Australia, Austria, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In 2021, several large, independent news publishers shut down in the wake of new national security laws. Stand News and Apple Daily in June and the prosecution of staff there. As a result, Stand News wrote that “speech crimes” had arrived in Hong Kong, and removed commentary pieces from its website. It also stopped accepting monthly donations from readers to avoid wasting donors’ funds if Stand News was suppressed in a similar manner as Apple Daily.

Begin text:

The undersigned members of the Media Freedom Coalition (MFC) remain deeply concerned at the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese authorities’ continued attacks on freedom of the press and their suppression of independent local media in Hong Kong.

Local media have intensified self-censorship since the imposition of the National Security Law in June 2020. Prosecutions of media workers in connection with sedition legislation have increased. The use of these laws to suppress journalism undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy and the rights and freedoms of the people in Hong Kong as promised in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and guaranteed in the Basic Law.

The Hong Kong authorities’ prolonged prosecutions of journalists like the Stand News team and publishers such as Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai create a chilling effect on others in the press and media. They come against the backdrop of the loss of editorial independence, the barring of journalists seeking to cover government press briefings, and the removal of material from public broadcasting archives.

Freedom of the press has been central to Hong Kong’s success for many years. Curtailing the space for free expression of alternative views weakens vital checks and balances on executive power. The free flow and exchange of opinions and information is vital to Hong Kong’s people, business, and international reputation.

We urge the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities to abide by their international human rights commitments and legal obligations and to preserve Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and respect for universal rights and freedoms.

The member countries of the MFC will always defend media freedom and freedom of expression. The member countries of the MFC will continue to stand up for those who are targeted simply for exercising their human rights.

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