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Press freedom in Hong Kong gets lowest marks from public since handover to China

Public satisfaction with the media in Hong Kong has hit rock bottom, according to a recent public opinion survey.

Satisfaction with the performance of the news media in general hit an all-time low since records began in 1993, according to a survey of 1,004 Cantonese-speaking adults carried out by the Hong Kong Public Institute Research Institute (PORI).

Meanwhile, satisfaction with the freedom of the press in Hong Kong fell by 23 percentage points … its lowest point since records began after the 1997 handover to Chinese rule, PORI said in a report published on Friday.

Just 28 percent of respondents expressed satisfaction with the level of press freedom in Hong Kong, a new low since this question was first asked in September 1997, while 51 percent said they were dissatisfied, the highest level since October 2020.

In addition, a record 46 percent felt that the Hong Kong news media didn’t make full use of what freedom of speech it did have, while 63 percent said the media held back on criticisms of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), while 51 percent said it avoided criticizing the Hong Kong authorities.

Senior journalist Chris Yeung said the figures were a reflection of an ongoing crackdown on public dissent and political opposition under the CCP’s draconian national security law, which has seen several pro-democracy news outlets forced to close and senior journalists arrested under the law.

“The trend is obvious,” Yeung told journalists on Friday. “At the very least, it’s very clear that the public believes the media has reservations and self-censors when dealing with matters relating to the central government.”

“Many Hong Kong matters now include the point of view of the central government, from the national security law to COVID-19 policy and even the recent [China Eastern] air crash,” Yeung said.

“The media are also careful how they handle other news that isn’t ostensibly political, like the case of Peng Shuai,” he said.

Yeung said the poll results were “absolutely” related to the closure of a number of media outlets including the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper and Stand News, Yeung said.

“Diversity of media voices is an very important element of press freedom,” he said, adding that there is really only room for pro-government voices in the Hong Kong media now.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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