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Following seven months of frontline protest coverage, HKFP is set to relaunch over the coming month with a new website, a bigger team and new accountability standards which we will share publicly.

hong kong free press

Aside from coverage of important demonstrations over the Lunar New Year break, our output will largely halt as we restructure HKFP for the future, expand, and train new reporters. Publishing will again briefly halt at the end of February as we transition to a state-of-the-art new website.

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Dear readers,

We are grateful to those who supported our team throughout the city’s recent turmoil – in particular to our monthly donors, who rose in number by 539 per cent to 792 in 2019. Our traffic, meanwhile, increased by over 300 per cent last year, whilst our number of Facebook and Twitter followers more than doubled. Regular support from HKFP Patrons has provided us with enough security and capacity to expand, whilst continuing to ensure our independence.

As Hongkongers, it is bittersweet to be sharing these statistics having seen and lived through the events of recent months. However, our staff have worked long hours – often at great personal risk – to document what has been happening on the streets, remaining impartial and disciplined throughout. We are certain that the demonstrations and unrest are far from over, but we must now prepare ourselves for the long haul and ensure new resources are put to use without further delay.

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Our relaunch will mean readers will have a more accessible, beautiful and faster experience when they catch up with the news. Furthermore, we will be returning with new levels of transparency and accountability, as we publish a Code of Ethics, Corrections Policy and Fact-checking Policy. Though we will have two great new reporters joining us, we will not be increasing the quantity of our output when we return – instead, we will be refocussing on quality and original reporting.

Daily coverage will mostly halt until late Wednesday, February 5, though we have arrangements in place – plus content from Agence France-Presse news wire – to ensure big or important stories are covered. HKFP will again wind down daily coverage in late February ahead of the new website launch. In almost five years, we have published over 15,000 articles, so this brief slowdown is a tough and reluctant choice. There is no ideal time to do this, but – as a small team with only one manager – the backlogs that have built up over months mean this is an unavoidable and necessary move.

We very much appreciate your patience as we undergo this transition with a view to re-emerge in a few weeks’ time as a more secure, and slightly bigger, news outlet. Since this requires a big investment and higher costs in the long-term, we very much welcome one-off and monthly support to help secure these upgrades and our future.

We wish our readers a peaceful Lunar New Year – and thank you once again for your readership.

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New accountability standards:

As rumours, state propaganda and accusations of “fake news” spread across the city, HKFP is seeking to become Hong Kong’s most publicly accountable and ethical news outlet.

hong kong free press
  • Code of ethics: HKFP has faced multiple ethical dilemmas during the recent protests, highlighting the need for clear ethical guidelines. Over the next fortnight, we will be formulating a new code to govern how we operate as journalists and remain accountable to the public. It will be shared on our website.
  • Corrections and fact-checking policy: To promote greater transparency, we will publicly disclose when and how we make corrections and how we ensure the accuracy of our reporting.
  • US charity equivalency: In 2019, HKFP went through a legal examination to be recognised as the equivalent of a US charity. Hong Kong law does not allow media outlets to register as tax-exempt charities, thus HKFP is a limited by guarantee company – a non-profit, answerable to readers not shareholders. As of January, 2020, we are now certified by NGO Source. Whilst this does not mean we are tax-exempt, it can be of some assurance to donors and grant-making bodies that we meet the same standards of a US public charity in terms of our structure, accountability and governance.
  • Further accreditation: HKFP is looking into becoming accredited with the Trust Project and the Reporters Without Borders’ Journalism Trust Initiative.
New Annual Report & Transparency Report:
  • HKFP will publish its new Annual Report detailing our work and news coverage over the past 12 months. The report will include a new, audited Transparency Report, laying out the sources of our income and how we spend every cent. It will also give updates on press freedom in Hong Kong and our plans for the future.
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New website:

After winning a place on the Newspack platform, the HKFP website will relaunch with a faster, cleaner web presence and identity at the end of February.

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  • Costs: The Newspack initiative is supported by funding, as well as technical and advisory assistance, from the Google News Initiativethe Lenfest Institute for JournalismConsenSys, the venture studio-backing Civil Media; and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. However, the project represents a long-term investment for HKFP, as we will pay around US$1,000 (HK$7,800) per month in hosting and maintenance costs upon relaunch.
  • Features: For those interested in the technical features of our new set-up, HKFP’s new site will include:
    • A highly customisable homepage.
    • Fully responsive design on all platforms.
    • The WordPress Guttenburg and Jetpack framework.
    • Compatibility with Google AMP, PWA and Facebook Instant Articles.
    • Integrations for Apple News, Mailchimp and social media.
    • Live blogging and membership tools.
    • Super full-width photography and multimedia presentation options.
    • And SEO, advertising and A/B testing features.
    • Newspack promises fast speeds and stability and the cost includes hosting, support, security, backups, updates and access to a community of dozens of other Newspack recipients.
New staff:
  • HKFP is proud to welcome two new reporters to our team – Kelly Ho and Rachel Wong – who will be joining us at the beginning of February. We are also set to bring on a new editor this year. Owing to the intensity of the protests, HKFP was unable to embark upon the long process of recruiting and training newcomers, so – until now – had relied on freelance help. Along with a wide network of op-ed writers, freelance journalists, volunteers and The Hive Spring office team, we finally have the means and capacity to expand the core team.
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New funding platform:

Last March, HKFP won a US$78,400 (HK$615,440) Google GNI Innovation Challenge grant to create an open-source funding platform for small newsrooms focussed on nurturing reader membership. Whilst the grant cannot be used on running cost, we have engaged a group of freelancers led by Diffractive to build a fundraising micro-site which any small newsroom can use to easily to bypass, or reduce their reliance upon, expensive third-party crowdfunding sites, and flawed fundraising plug-ins.

Google news initiative hong kong free press

Though work was delayed owing to last year’s protests, phase one has now begun and we seek to launch a prototype by this time next year.

YouTube video
YouTube video

Not-for-profit, run by journalists and completely independent, the HKFP team relies on readers to keep us going and to help safeguard press freedom. 12 ways to support us this Lunar New Year.

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.