A total of 53 opposition politicians and activists were arrested in Hong Kong in January 2021, on the basis that they were allegedly part of a conspiracy aimed to obstruct the government. The arrests followed the raid by some 200 police officers of the offices hosting the newsroom of Hong Kong’s most popular newspaper, Apple Daily. Its owner and founder was arrested under the accusation of urging (in his tweets) international sanctions against the Chinese authorities. If convicted, the 73- year-old Jimmy Lai would spend at least three years in prison.
These actions (and many others with less visibility or notoriety) occurred after China imposed a new National Security Law on its Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Hong Kong in mid-2020. With all these developments during the past year, it is clear for everyone that Hong Kong media will no longer enjoy the freedom from government restrictions the way they were used to.
Cherian George, a professor of Media Studies in Hong Kong and a prominent researcher of hate propaganda and censorship, looks in a recent essay at the possible outcomes of journalism and media in Hong Kong in the years to come. In the essay, published by Global Media Journal, Mr George looks at the issue at hand taking into consideration global precedents and comparative studies of other countries experiencing various methods of media control.
Without predicting an apocalyptic end or a rosy future, Mr George likely expects the Hong Kong media to become “a messy landscape of repression mixed with semi-freedom,” with a double-digit fall in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom rankings but with still available room for journalists to do their jobs.