Attack on a former newspaper editor, tight grip on information flow and restrictions on news coverage have fueled growing concerns in recent months about the level of press freedom in Hong Kong. To enhance awareness about the issue, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has launched a new Press Freedom Index, which throws more light on the problem.
The first Hong Kong Press Freedom Index points to a grim picture after a survey of the general public as well as the journalist community. The index showed a reading of 49.4 for the general public and 42.0 for journalists, against a range of 0 to 100, pointing to the low level of satisfaction about the press freedom in the city.
More than 1,000 people from the general public and a total of 422 journalists were interviewed for the survey, which was designed with the help of some academics.
According to HKJA chairperson Sham Yee-lan, the index could have been even worse as the data collection was made before the attack on Kevin Lau, former chief editor of Ming Pao and the sudden termination of Li Wei Ling’s employment contract as a talk-show host by Hong Kong Commercial Broadcasting Co.
But the data shows a significant gap between the general public and journalists about their perceptions of the enjoyment of press freedom, Ming Pao Daily News quoted Robert Chung, director of Public Opinion Programme at the University of Hong Kong, as saying. The average reading for the general public was at 6.3, while for journalists it was 4.8, on a scale of 0 to 10 (with 10 being very satisfied, and 0 being very dissatisfied).
Journalists are very dissatisfied with the way the Hong Kong government releases important information of public concern, according to Sham. On that question, the satisfaction rate for the general public and journalists was at 5.0 and 3.7, respectively.
The HKJA has urged the Hong Kong government to expedite the legislation of freedom of information in order to protect the city’s status as an information hub.
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