Canada and the United Kingdom will co-host a global conference on media freedom in London. A joint press release states the aim is to, “shine a spotlight on media freedom, and in so doing to raise the cost to those abusing it.”
The announcement landed in Hong Kong in the wake of local press associations (the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association) accusing local police of targeting media covering the recent Hong Kong protests against the proposed extradition bill and other long-standing grievances connected to a lack of democracy in the SAR.
The Canadian Consul General in Hong Kong and Macau, Jeffrey Nankivell, says, “A free media is essential to democracy and a vibrant political system, without which societies risk falling into ignorance or conflict. Hong Kong’s long tradition of media freedom has been critical to its success as a global centre for business, culture and academia.”
On May 30, Canada and Britain made an unprecedented joint statement on Hong Kong’s proposed extradition bill. The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt, the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. Their statement read, “We are concerned about the potential effect of these proposals on the large number of Canadian and UK citizens in Hong Kong, on business confidence and on Hong Kong’s international reputation. Furthermore, we believe that there is a risk that the proposals could impact negatively on the rights and freedoms set down in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. It is vital that extradition arrangements in Hong Kong are in line with ‘one country, two systems’ and fully respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy. We have made these views clear in our respective conversations with the Hong Kong government.”
The joint statement of the respective ministers was echoed in a joint statement by the British and Canadian consuls general in Hong Kong.
The British Consul General in Hong Kong Andrew Heyn said: “We are seeing a new and dangerous trend of journalists being targeted simply for doing their jobs. The London Conference will support and protect journalists operating globally – whether in Hong Kong, the UK or anywhere else around the world. A free media is vital for economic prosperity, including here in Hong Kong where it is protected under the Basic Law.”
The joint statement notes:
- 2018 is the worst year on record for violence and abuse against journalists: more than half of the journalists were deliberately targeted and there has been a 15% increase in such killings since 2017.
- In 2018, at least 99 journalists were killed, a further 348 imprisoned and 60 held hostage.
- Almost 1,000 journalists and media workers have been killed in the past decade.
- 93% of those killed are local journalists and 7% are foreign correspondents.
- Nine in ten cases of killed journalists remain unresolved.
- There has been an increase in incidents against journalists across all categories including murders, imprisonment, hostage-taking and enforced disappearances.
- Journalists face dangers beyond warzones and extremism, including increasing intolerance to independent reporting, populism, rampant corruption, crime and the breakdown of law and order.
- Impunity for crimes against journalists remains the norm, with justice in only one in 10 cases.
- There has been an increase of hostility towards, and criticism of, journalists, as more democratically elected leaders see media as adversaries rather than part of the foundation of democracy.
- Only 13% of the world’s population enjoys a free press. Media independence and the autonomy of independent regulators have faced increased pressure.
- A recent poll in 131 countries suggested there was a general perception of declining media freedom and a declining public trust in news reported across most regions.
- Media pluralism continues to be limited by the ongoing fact that women remain heavily unrepresented in the media workforce and in decision-making roles.
- Digital safety is an increasing concern for journalists with threats posed by intimidation and harassment, disinformation, surveillance and attacks.
He has run The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, founded The Lion Rock Institute and has over 25 years engagement in media, politics, policy and community engagement.
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