Monitoring the authorities is the duty of the media, pro-establishment newspaper Oriental Daily said in an editorial on Friday after it was criticised by the police for a video commentary on the force’s performance.

The editorial came after the newspaper’s online edition said police had criticised their video commentary about incidents in which officers were involved in physical scuffles with suspected offenders. It was prompted by the police shooting of an unarmed man on Peng Chau last month.

Oriental Daily
Oriental Daily. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

The video questioned police capabilities, citing incidents including one last week where an officer was attacked by a driver who was stopped over suspected drugs trafficking.

According to a photo of the police letter sent to the director of the website, the force expressed “extreme regret” and “strong discontent” towards the outlet’s “unprofessional, irresponsible, and biased criticism made in a mocking manner.”

Gov’t criticism

The police letter to Oriental Daily was the administration’s latest criticism of the local press.

Earlier in January, another local newspaper, Ming Pao, was lambasted by Chief Secretary for Administration Eric Chan over a comic strip about a legislative interpretation issued by the decision-making body of China’s top legislature on the Beijing-imposed national security law.

An editorial published by the Oriental Daily on February 3, 2023.
An editorial published by the Oriental Daily on February 3, 2023. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

Following the police letter, Oriental Daily on Friday published an article titled “instead of reflecting on their own faults, the police blame the media for being biased.”

Published alongside the article was an editorial, which accused the police of “putting pressure” on Oriental Daily, adding that the newspaper was exercising its role as part of the fourth estate: “Just as academics point out, the police are paid with taxpayers’ money – the citizens have expectations of them, and the media has the right to monitor. Why can’t the police correct mistakes if there are any, and continue to improve if there are not?”.”

“How is it press freedom if only praise is allowed and criticism is banned? Do the police want to silence the patriotic Oriental [Daily] after the anti-China Apple Daily was swept into oblivion?”

Apple Daily, a pro-democracy tabloid founded by media tycoon Jimmy Lai, folded in June 2021 after several of its editors and writers were arrested under the sweeping security law.

An article published by the Oriental Daily on Feb 3, 2023.
An article published by the Oriental Daily on Feb 3, 2023 titled “instead of reflecting on their own faults, the police blamed the media for being biased.” Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

The trial against Lai, who is being prosecuted under the national security law and the colonial-era sedition law, will resume in September this year. Meanwhile, six other former employees of the newspaper and its parent company Next Digital have pleaded guilty to conspiring to collude with foreign forces.

‘Regret and concern’

The city’s largest local press group, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, said in a statement on Thursday that they were regretful and concerned about law enforcement issuing letters to media outlets, adding that the administration’s actions were essentially pressuring news organisations.

“In fact, over the past half a year, different departments of the government continue to use different ways, such as issuing statements, publishing blog posts, or sending private letters, to express their discontent towards news articles or commentary published by media outlets,” the statement read.

“This obstructs media organisations’ journalistic autonomy and press freedom, and undermines press freedom protected by the Basic Law, and will definitely add pressure to media outlets and journalists.”

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.