Asia - Pacific
Hong Kong
-
Index 2022
148/180
Score : 41.64
Political indicator
147
40.50
Economic indicator
122
35.90
Legislative indicator
151
42.58
Social indicator
125
57.45
Security indicator
151
31.78
Index 2021
80/180
Score : 69.56
N/A
Indicators not available because the calculation method was changed in 2022

Once a bastion of press freedom, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China has seen an unprecedented setback since 2020 when Beijing adopted a National Security Law aimed at silencing independent voices. 

Media landscape

Hong Kong, a former British colony, has a vibrant media environment with hundreds of publications and over 15 TV stations. Since the 1997 handover to China, most media have fallen under the control of the government or pro-China groups. In 2021, two major independent news outlets, Apple Daily and Stand News, were forcefully shut down while numerous smaller-scale media outlets ceased operations, citing legal risks.

Political context

The Hong Kong government takes orders directly from Beijing and openly supports its attempts to impose censorship and spread propaganda. Public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), previously renowned for its fearless investigations, has been placed under a pro-government management which does not hesitate to censor the programmes it dislikes.

Legal framework

Hong Kong’s Basic Law enshrines “freedom of speech, of the press and of publication”. The National Security Law, however, serves as a pretext to gag independent voices in the name of the fight against “terrorism”, “secession”, “subversion”, and “collusion with foreign forces”. Due to its ambiguous phrasing, the law looks like it could apply to any journalist covering Hong Kong, regardless of their location.

Economic context

Most large-scale media outlets are owned by pro-Beijing factions and the remaining independent media owners are confronted with political pressure. In 2021, the government froze the assets of Apple Daily and Stand News, forcing them to cease operations and causing the unemployment of 860 of their staff.

Sociocultural context

Journalists in Hong Kong are de facto separated into two groups, namely those who work for local Chinese-language media and those who work for English-language or international media. Journalists who work for independent or pro-democracy media are generally regarded highly by the public, while those who work for pro-Beijing newspapers or TV stations are viewed more negatively. 

Safety

Hong Kong used to be a very safe place for journalists until 2014, when those who covered the Umbrella Movement were targeted by the police and pro-Beijing factions. During the 2019 protests, hundreds of journalists were victims of police violence and were also detained and indicted. A new wave of arrests started in 2021, when a dozen journalists were detained for national security crimes.