Hong Kong digital news outlet Stand News has been nominated for the Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’s 2021 Press Freedom Prize for Independence. It comes just as its editor-in-chief announced his resignation over the weekend due to “family reasons.”

The Paris-headquartered press rights group announced 12 nominees from 11 different countries for their annual awards on Monday.

Photo: Reporters without Borders (RSF).

“Founded in Hong Kong in December 2014, Stand News is an independent, non-profit, Cantonese-Chinese news website that undertakes to defend fundamental Hong Kong values – ‘democracy, human rights, freedom, rule of law and justice’ – and aims to be a space where journalists are ‘independent of companies, shareholders, authorities and political parties,'” its statement read.

“Today, Stand News continues to cover crucial political and social developments in the territory, and to provide in-depth coverage of government policy and all trials related to the National Security Law,” it continued.

The RSF press freedom prize honours journalists and media outlets for “journalistic courage, impact and independence,” with four nominees for each category.

An officer monitors a reporter’s recording. Photo: Jimmy Lam/HKFP.

“The list of nominees for the 2021 Awards reflects the challenges facing journalists and media outlets engaged in a common battle for the freedom to inform,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

“These men, women and media outlets fight with courage and determination against converging forces that undermine journalistic independence…. The RSF Awards is a tribute and above all a support for all those who embody journalism’s ideals,” he continued.

Other nominees include detained Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, who travelled to Wuhan to cover Beijing’s initial response to the Covid-19 outbreak there last February, for the Prize for Courage. Winners of the 29th RSF Press Freedom Awards will be announced next Thursday.

The 38-year-old is reportedly “close to death,” according to her family, owing to her hunger strike.

Editor-in-chief resigns

The nomination for Stand News comes after its Editor-in-Chief Chung Pui-kuen announced he had stepped down from his post last Monday, citing “family reasons.”

“I genuinely thank everyone for their years of support for Stand News,” Chung wrote on his personal Facebook page over the weekend. “I am so fortunate to have met all of you through this platform… I hope you will all continue to support the news team at Stand News. They are kind, sincere and persistent. I am deeply proud to have worked with them.”

Chan Pui-man, a former Apple Daily top editor who was arrested over national security charges.

Chung’s wife, Chan Pui-man, was a former associate editor at the now-defunct, pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily. Chan is among the seven former top executives and writers at the paper facing national security charges and remains behind bars pending trial.

Apple Daily, formerly the city’s most widely-read newspaper, was closed in June after a national security crackdown saw its leadership arrested and charged under the law and its assets frozen. Its leadership and journalists stand accused of conspiring to collude with foreign forces to impose sanctions on local and central officials.

Chan’s case will be mentioned on December 28.

Reporters raise questions during a government press conference on September 15, 2020. File Photo: GovHK.

Pro-Beijing heavyweights hailed Chung’s resignation. “It’s not surprising that Chung made the decision to quit the job. It also signals that Stand News will come to an end,” Lau Siu-kai, a former chief adviser at Hong Kong’s central policy unit, told Chinese state-backed tabloid Global Times on Sunday.

The city’s press union and foreign press club have both voiced concerns over the state of the city’s press freedoms since Apple Daily’s closure. A survey conducted among reporters last week found almost half of around 100 respondents were considering or had plans to leave the city due to worsening working conditions. Beijing deemed the survey to be “interference.”

Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.