An international consortium which promotes greater accountability and transparency in the news industry has frozen its Hong Kong operations.

The Trust Project promotes “trust indicators” – eight markings within published news articles – to help identify quality reporting among its 265 news partners.

The Trust Project
The Trust Project. Photo: The Trust Project.
Sally Lehrman
Trust Project Founder Sally Lehrman. Photo: Linkedin.

Founder Sally Lehrman told HKFP by email last week that the decision to halt operations in the city was made internally: “[W]e remain on pause in the region as we further evaluate the increasingly difficult environment for news organisations to operate freely and independently. [And] our ability to continue to operate in the region with integrity.”

See also: The decline of Hong Kong’s press freedom under the security law

Members of the Trust Project News Partner programme include the Economist, the Washington Post, Germany’s Deutsche Presse-Agentur and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. The latter was the first – and last – to be onboarded in Hong Kong.

“[W]e will put the process of implementation and earning the Trust Mark on hold until we determine the best way to proceed in Hong Kong,” Lehrman said, adding that they still believe in independent journalism in the city and want to support it.

The project was founded in 2018 and involves over 200 news sites.

Hong Kong remains listed on their website.

Press freedom under fire

Two newsrooms have been raided, and senior staff arrested, since the onset of the 2020 security law, whilst the International Federation of Journalists says a dozen outlets have closed in all.

Bloomberg reported that more than 1,000 journalists and journalism-related workers had been forced out of work in the city.

Meanwhile, public trust in the credibility of Hong Kong’s media has fallen to its lowest level in two decades, according to a survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong published in August.

Weeks later, the Hong Kong Journalists Association’s press freedom index sank to a new low for the third consecutive year, with reporters questioning the media’s effectiveness as a watchdog amid an increasingly challenging environment for the industry.

Made with Flourish

This year’s Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom index saw the city plunge 68 places to 148th in the world, sandwiching the international business hub between the Philippines and Turkey.

RSF says 13 Hong Kong media workers remain behind bars.

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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.