By KERRIE HECKEL
Hong Kong is experiencing what CNN calls its all-time low in press freedom.
Historically, Hong Kong has served as the “window into China,” reporting stories about government criticism that mainland reporters could not or would not report.
However, Hong Kong is experiencing serious decline in their press freedom as journalists fall victim to being bullied out of reporting.
Protest organizer and veteran reporter Shirley Yam says headlines and complete pages have been removed from newspapers, columnists have been sacked, and interviews have been bought.
“We get calls from senior government officials, we get calls from tycoons, saying ‘we don’t want to see this in your paper,'” Yam said.
A prime example of oppression of the press in recent days is Kevin Lao.
Lao was editor for Ming Pao, a daily newspaper known for its coverage of human rights, before a Malaysian editor replaced him.
To add insult to injury, Lao was hospitalized Wednesday after being attacked with a meat cleaver. The source of Lao’s attack is unknown, however, many fear that if incidents like Lao’s aren’t addressed seriously and stopped, public fear will grow and Hong Kong’s press will be further prevented from running stories dealing with government and big business.
The issue in Hong Kong highlights the relationship between the press and its government. It seems there is a conundrum with the fact that journalists are supposed to serve the watchdog function over the same government that they depend on to give them the rights and safety to do so.
In the United States, we experience the luxury of a constitution that explicitly tells us there is freedom of press within the First Amendment. Checks and balances within the government makes sure this right is protected.
However, in places where the press is not so fortunate, being watchdog to the government can be dangerous, especially if the government doesn’t want to be monitored. This is the heart of the issue in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong legislative council member Cyd Yo told CNN, “Beijing is a control freak. It cannot bear any opposition.”
It seems to me that journalists and the public alike are on a long road for change in the special administrative region of China. While many are protesting now, what China needs is a fundamental change in how its government relates with the press and a change like this will need both time and passionate supporters.