HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s police chief warned journalists they could be investigated for reporting “fake news.” A newspaper controlled by the Chinese government called for a ban on the city’s biggest pro-democracy news outlet. Masked men ransacked the offices of a publication critical of China’s Communist Party and smashed its presses.
Hong Kong’s reputation as a bastion of press freedom in Asia, home to journalism that is far more aggressive and independent than that found next door in mainland China, has been under sustained pressure for years. Now, as Beijing moves to stamp out dissent in the city, the news media is under direct assault. Traditional pressure tactics, such as advertising boycotts, have been eclipsed by the sort of bare-knuckles campaign that could leave prominent journalists silenced and their outlets transformed or closed.
Recent targets include the freewheeling pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, whose founder was sentenced to 14 months in prison last week, and RTHK, a public broadcaster known for its deep investigations. On Thursday, one of the network’s prizewinning producers, Choy Yuk-ling,was found guilty of making false statements to obtain public records for a report that was critical of the police. She was ordered to pay a fine of 6,000 Hong Kong dollars, about $775.
“We seem to have turned some sort of a corner fairly recently,” said Keith Richburg, director of the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Center. “Self-censorship is still an issue and not knowing where the red lines are, but now we see what seems to be more of a frontal assault on the media in Hong Kong.”
imposed a tough national security law last year, criminalizing many forms of antigovernment speech. Then it made changes to Hong Kong’s election system, tightening the pro-Beijing establishment’s grip on power.
removed from office. The protest movement was silenced. Activists were jailed. And journalists found themselves in the government’s cross hairs.
On Thursday, a Hong Kong court found that Ms. Choy, a freelance producer, had broken the law when she used a public database of license plate records as part of an investigation into a July 2019 mob attack at a train station, in which 45 people were injured. Activists have accused the police of turning a blind eye to the violence.