The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) postponed its annual Kam Yiu-yu Press Freedom Award earlier in the year, HKFP has learned.

“Due to the Covid pandemic and socio-political involvement in recent months, the Kam Yiu-yu Press Freedom Award has been postponed,” HKJA chair Ronson Chan said on Tuesday. He added that – in his opinion – the awards could continue in the future, but the decision should be made by the Kam Yiu-yu Press Freedom Foundation.

Hong Kong Journalists Association. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Honorary secretary of the foundation Mak Yin-ting told HKFP on Tuesday that the HKJA was stretched for resources recently: “We always wanted to hold it, but… I can’t handle the award without the help of an organisation. Now it is a time factor.”

She also added that – pending internal discussions – the prize may return next year if there were no political considerations. Entries would be accepted to cover both 2021 and 2022.

Ronson Chan speaking as the chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association at its annual dinner gala. File Photo: HKJA.

Founded in 1968, the HKJA is currently under investigation by the Registry of Trade Unions, which has ordered it to provide financial information and explain some of its social media posts. John Lee – who is expected to be the next chief executive – has said he would not meet the group, which has been under sustained attack from the state-backed press.

Last April, Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK rejected the 2021 Kam Yiu-yu award it won for a documentary about the 2019 Yuen Long mob attacks, as it was undergoing a “transition period.” The documentary, titled 7.21 Who Owns the Truth, was aired on July 13, 2020 and highlighted apparent police negligence.

Press freedom

On Monday, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) saw a backlash from members after it axed the 2022 Human Rights Press Awards at the last minute citing legal “red lines.” Sources told HKFP that the now-defunct Stand News – which is the subject of a court case – was set to win four awards and five merits.

When asked about press freedom at her weekly press briefing on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the FCC incident was isolated: “[F]rom time to time, there will be some concerns and worries arising from isolated incidents… If that same organisation decided not to hold that event, a government official cannot comment on it.”

Explainer: The decline of Hong Kong’s press freedom under the national security law

Since the onset of the security law in 2020, two newsrooms have been raided and their top editors arrested, as press freedom NGOs have sounded the alarm. Apple Daily, Stand News and Citizen News are among the outlets that have shuttered.

Newspapers in Hong Kong. File Photo: GovHK.

On Sunday, John Lee said he did not need to “defend” press freedom, as it already existed.

A “fake news” law, regulation of crowdfunding and legislation of the local Article 23 security law are all expected when-and-if Lee takes the helm.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & 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.