AJI Urges Hong Kong Authority to Protect Press Freedom

10 Jan 2022 10:23 am | Oleh : Putri Adenia

The Alliance of  Indonesian Independent Journalists (AJI) stands with all independent journalists in Hongkong. They have persistently defended the freedom of the press amid tremendous pressure since the local authorities passed the Law on National Security on June 30, 2020. The Hong Kong authorities have used the law to silence the press by arresting journalists and forcibly closing several independent media outlets. 

Independent online news site CitizenNews Hong Kong has decided to stop operating as of January 4, 2022, to ensure the safety of its journalists. CitizenNews was founded by a group of journalists in 2017 and had more than 800,000 followers on social media. 

CitizenNews announced the decision on January 3, only three days after the local police raided another independent media outlet, the Stand News. The police arrested at least six of Stand News journalists on sedition law. If convicted, they could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to HK$ 5,000 ($640). 

AP reported that the raid involved more than 200 officers seeking and confiscating journalistic material on a warrant under Hong Kong's National Security Act. Stand News has said that the authorities will remove its website and social media. All of its workers have also been laid off. 

Last year another media outlet, Apple Daily, also shut down operations following the arrest of its owner and its assets frozen on charges of sedition. The shutdown of these independent media shows that Hong Kong and its legal environment are not friendly to press freedom. Articles of sedition are used to silence journalists and the media to impose fear and media shut down. 

Pressure on the independent journalists' community by Hong Kong authorities also took a form in the arrest of Ronson Chan, head of the Hong Kong Journalist Association (HKJA) and Stand News deputy editor. He was arrested at his home. The police detained all his ATM cards, press cards and ransacked his electronic communication devices. He was recently released after sending out a written statement. 

The forced closure of independent media contradicts Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees freedom of opinion, expression, conveying and receiving information. Hong Kong authorities should implement the ICCPR as part of international law on human rights as part of the international community. Standing in solidarity with independent journalists in Hong Kong, AJI Indonesia, therefore: 

1. Urge Hong Kong authorities to release all detained media workers on sedition articles and stop the criminalization against journalists under the harsh sedition law. It has imposed fear and prevented journalists and the media from carrying out their journalistic duty. 

2. Call on the UN to immediately take urgent action to ensure press freedom in Hong Kong and release all journalists. The claim made by Hong Kong authorities of not repressing journalists and of referring to the media closure as a voluntary decision is baseless. Three independent media organizations would not stop their operations if they were not raided and criminalized.  

3. Ask the Indonesian government to call on Hong Kong authorities to guarantee press freedom. As a strategic partner of Hong Kong, Indonesia has the opportunity to provide suggestions for improvement regarding good practices in civil and political rights in Hong Kong. 

Jakarta, January 6, 2022

AJI Indonesia Chairman Sasmito

AJI Indonesia General Secretary Ika Ningtyas

AJI is an organization of independent journalists whose mission is to fight for press freedom and improve journalists' professionalism and welfare. It currently has 1,846 members spread across 40 cities. AJI is the constituent of the Indonesian Press Council and a member of several international organizations such as Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Canada-based International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), US-based Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), and Bangkok-based human rights group Forum Asia. 

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