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Hong Kong: New cases of censorship and self-censorship

Pro-democracy protesters take afternoon naps on the streets in Hong Kong.

As the Occupy Central movement continues its pro-democracy demonstrations, local and foreign media whose coverage angers the government are suffering consequences. Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily is paying a high price for supporting Occupy Central.

Members of a counter-movement have been surrounding the headquarters of the newspaper, which announced its pro-Occupy Central position on October 11. For three days, the paper’s activities have been disrupted, with delivery trucks prevented from entering. As a result, distributors have not been fully supplied. Delivery of the International New York Times, carried by the same trucks, was also affected.

During the third day of the anti-newspaper action, the demonstrators – most of them women wearing face masks – defied a High Court order of October 14 that they lift the siege. But police did not proceed to arrest them, effectively allowing the delivery truck blockade to continue.

On October 15, the BBC website suffered blocking as well. It was taken down for several hours after it ran a video showing Hong Kong police beating pro-democracy protester Ken Tsang Kin-Chiu.

On Hong Kong television station TVB, management partially censored the same video by cutting narration explaining that police were assaulting the demonstrator. Twenty-seven TVB journalists signed an open letter condemning the self-censorship. Reporters Without Borders has lend its support to this initiative.

The organisation expressed its outrage at repeated blocking of news on critically important events occurring in Hong Kong. “It is unacceptable that the court decision was not followed by action on the part of police on the scene,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, head of the organisation’s Asia-Pacific desk. “This infringement of press freedom is all the more serious because the online site was rendered inaccessible on Tuesday afternoon. Censorship and pressure orchestrated by the Beijing government must also stop. We call on media not to give in to the pressure to self-censor. Those that yield to the pressure damage their own credibility and call into question their reason for existence.”

On October 10, RWB condemned the Beijing government’s expanding control of the Special Administrative Region that includes Hong Kong. The organization called on the Hong Kong government’s chief executive to guarantee freedom of the press and freedom of expression. The previous week, RWB expressed concern at the Beijing government’s power to alter news coverage, including by the foreign press.

Hong Kong ranks 61st of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Date posted: October 17, 2014 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 0