Chief Executive CY Leung touted the virtues of press freedom and pledged that the SAR government would continue to defend its existence, in a speech at the HK News Awards on Monday.
The annual awards are hosted by the Newspaper Society of Hong Kong, honouring outstanding achievements of local journalists. There are a total of 70 awards covering subject matter ranging from social welfare, healthcare, science and technology to the economy.
At the awards presentation ceremony, Leung thanked journalists, their teams, and news organisations for their spirit and work, stating that freedom of the press was an important cornerstone established by Article 27 of the Basic Law.
“The SAR government will continue to maintain freedom of speech in Hong Kong, not simply because it is the responsibility of the government or because it is a core value of Hong Kong, but because it is a necessary condition for Hong Kong as an international city. Freedom of the press is essential to maintain Hong Kong’s competitiveness and free society. In other words, protecting freedom of the press means protecting Hong Kong’s way of life.”
Leung said that the city’s press freedom acts as a bridge between two spheres.
“I have often pointed out that Hong Kong is a ‘super connector’ between the mainland and foreign countries, which is an important function of Hong Kong’s social and economic development. To utilise this function Hong Kong must maintain a free flow of information and news, and pay attention to foreign affairs domestically and abroad.”
Leung also discussed the changing landscape of the media industry, and how traditional news sources could adapt to the modern world.
“The media industry is rapidly changing, with the development of information technology and online media creating fierce competition, leading everyone to find space and routes in the market. For traditional media this is both a challenge and an opportunity.”
The Hong Kong government does not allow online media access to press conferences and press releases.
Press freedom under CY Leung
Leung’s tenure as Chief Executive has been marred by a series of high-profile incidents in which press freedom, and even specific journalists, have been subject to attacks, most notably in the case of Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau Chun-to being attacked with choppers.
A new poll released last week by the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme showed that Hongkongers’ satisfaction with press freedom is at its lowest since 1997, with fewer than half of all respondents saying they were satisfied with press freedom.
Recently, the dismissal of former Ming Pao executive chief editor Keung Kwok-yuen has drawn criticism. He was fired last Wednesday to cut costs according to the newspaper’s management.The firing has been labelled an act that violated freedom of the press and expression in Hong Kong, with Ming Pao columnists and media unions alike protesting and criticising the move.
Ming Pao staff attending the awards wore black in protest at Keung’s dismissal, RTHK reported.