The Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) decision to scrap the Human Rights Press Awards was related to local outlet Stand News winning a number of titles, sources with knowledge of the matter told HKFP on Monday.

Additionally, eight members of the club’s Press Freedom Committee, which oversees the awards, resigned in protest of the cancellation.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Stand News was reportedly slated to receive nine recognitions – four awards and five merits – at this year’s event, which was supposed to be held on May 3. An FCC member told HKFP that “certain items” were flagged as posing legal risks and presented to the club’s board.

Holding the ceremony but not giving the award to to the outlet, it was debated, would undermine the integrity of the awards.

Awards set to be given to the now-defunct StandNews – click to view.

Investigative feature writing:

Winner:

  • Stand News – 2012 Lamma Island ferry collision investigation

Merit:

  • Stand News – “Smart Prison” Experiment
  • Stand News – Video Analysis on Yuen Long 721 incident

Explanatory Feature Writing:

Merit:

  • Stand News – Foodpanda Strike Series Report

Short Video:

Winner:

  • Stand News – If this is the last day of freedom

Multimedia:

Winner:

  • Stand News – The Battle of Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China: 1989-2021

Merits:

  • Stand News – 2021 Dissolution: How are you guys doing?

Documentary:

Winner:

  • Stand News – Sourcing Yuen Long 721 incident

Merit:

  • Stand News – Apple Daily’s Final Chapter: 50 hours before the closure, four employees tell their unfulfilled wishes

The club published a statement on Monday announcing the suspension of this year’s awards, citing legal risks. Two former Stand News employees are facing sedition charges after the outlet was raided last December.

“The FCC intends to continue promoting press freedom in Hong Kong, while recognising that recent developments might also require changes to our approach,” the statement by club president Keith Richburg read.

Human Rights Press Awards. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The Press Freedom Committee oversees the running of the Human Rights Press Awards, but the decision to call off this year’s awards was made by the FCC board. In addition to the eight resignations from the Press Freedom Committee, one person resigned from the FCC board.

The awards were suspended “pending further review.” It is unclear if they will be held next year.

Screenshots show that the FCC’s core mission of upholding press freedom was removed on Monday. Screenshots: FCC website.

A description on the FCC website defending press freedom was removed as of Monday.

‘Seditious publications’

One of Hong Kong’s most recognisable pro-democracy news outlets, Stand News ceased operations last December after arrests and a police raid.

Authorities accused the independent news outlet of publishing “seditious materials” between the enactment of the security law last June and November 2021 with intent to cause hatred towards the government, the judiciary and cause discontent among the public.

Police hauled out boxes from Stand News’ office. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Two former employees and its parent company have been charged with allegedly conspiring to publish “seditious publications” under the colonial-era Crimes Ordinance.

See more: Timeline: Hong Kong’s non-profit outlet Stand News through the years

The outlet was founded in December 2014. It was most known for its livestreaming of the 2019 protests, which erupted over a controversial extradition bill.

‘Red lines’

The FCC said in a statement on Monday that it had “regretfully decided to suspend the Human Rights Press Awards,” which were originally slated for May 3 – World Press Freedom Day.

“I know this is an unusual step to take so late in the process, just weeks before we were set to announce the winners. It is likely to be deeply disappointing to all those who took time to enter, and to the judges and everyone else who invested their time and energy into this project,” Richburg wrote in the statement.

Newspapers in Hong Kong. File Photo: GovHK.

“Over the last two years, journalists in Hong Kong have been operating under new ‘red lines’ on what is and is not permissible, but there remain significant areas of uncertainty and we do not wish unintentionally to violate the law,” Richburg wrote. “This is the context in which we decided to suspend the Awards.”

The Human Rights Press Awards began in 1996. This year, its 26th, will be the first time the FCC has not held the annual awards.


Correction 25/4: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that Stand News won five awards and four merits. In fact, the defunct outlet won four awards and five merits.

Support HKFP  |  Code of Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit, Hong Kong Free Press is #PressingOn with impartial, award-winning, frontline coverage.

Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.