Hong Kong’s news media have practiced self-censorship stemming from a hesitation to criticise the Central Government, say just over half of all the interviewees in a University of  Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme (HKUPOP) poll.

On Tuesday, the results of the latest HKUPOP poll were announced in Hong Kong news media. 1,046 Hongkongers were interviewed by phone between September 24 and 30.

Although the poll revealed overall satisfaction with the media to be at a record high since 1997, 55 percent believed that local news media have practiced self-censorship. The percentage of those who perceived the media to have scruples when criticising the HKSAR and Central Government was also greater than those who thought otherwise.

The findings of the HKUPOP survey. Photo: hkupop.hku.hk.

While most believe the media had given full play to press freedom, 31 percent each way also considered the media responsible and irresponsible in their reporting.

The survey also said that the general credibility rating of news media has recovered by 0.14 to 5.86 out of 10 marks as compared to the results of the last survey in April.

Newspapers in Hong Kong. Photo: HKFP.

Another key finding showed that television and the internet are still the main sources of news, while people were most satisfied with the performance of radio, which had a net satisfaction of a positive 44 percent.

A press freedom protest. Photo: HKFP.

Although television was still shown to be influential, its leading edge is shrinking, with satisfaction standing at 35 percent, a new low since 1993.

Overall, people’s net satisfaction of the news media has hit a record low at 29 percent – although this was still higher than the 17 percent satisfied with press freedom.

In July, the Hong Kong Journalists Association warned that journalists in Hong Kong are facing serious harassment, risks and internal pressures such as self-censorship.

In 2015, Hong Kong’s freedom of expression has dropped for the fifth consecutive year, with Freedom of the Press ranking the city 83 out of the 199 surveyed. Reporters Without Borders placed Hong Kong 70th of 180 countries surveyed on its World Press Freedom Index, indicating a fall in nine places from 2014.

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Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.