Listening Post

Strangling Hong Kong

Will a legacy of quality, unfettered journalism be molded into the tightly controlled media of mainland China?

Last updated: 24 Aug 2014 13:37
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There is a tussle underway in Hong Kong – a debate over how this Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China should be governed.

What's happening in Hong Kong is you don’t need the government to tell you what to do. Self-censorship alone is destroying Hong Kong’s press freedom.

Claudia Mo, Hong Kong Legislative Council member

The tug of war has pitted what is being called the 'pan-democratic' camp against those who say China's assertion of control is not really an existential threat.

If you were to observe Hong Kong's media landscape however, there is a perceptible shift.

Journalists and news consumers talk of increasing self-censorship in the news media and they point to papers like the English-language South China Morning Post as a barometer of Hong Kong's media climate.

Founded in 1903, it earned a reputation that it carried through the 20th century for quality, unfettered journalism - in contrast with the tightly controlled media in mainland China.

That is, until relatively recently. The SCMP's coverage has been under close scrutiny by readers and media observers.

The paper's current editor is the first journalist from mainland China to take the editor's seat; the paper's editorial line on China is increasingly becoming more contentious and in the newsroom, discontent amongst journalists is becoming an issue.

"Whether you are a journalist in the Chinese-language media or the English-language media, the pressure is increasing on us all. The space for free reporting is diminishing and this has been especially so in the last two or three years. What we must do is to report important stories without self-censoring. We need to do the best work we can," says Phyllis Tsang of the Ming Pao newspaper.

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