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Press Freedom Waning in Hong Kong

January 16, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

New PEN Report Documents Confluence of Attacks on Critical News Media

NEW YORK—The deterioration of press freedom has accelerated over the past year in Hong Kong, coinciding with a period of rising political tension, according to a new report released by PEN American Center today at a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong. Threatened Harbor: Encroachments on Press Freedom in Hong Kong brings together news reports, first-person commentary, and legal precedent to expose the shrinking environment for free expression in the territory as it marks more than 17 years under mainland Chinese control.

Local and foreign correspondents have long made use of Hong Kong’s unique geopolitical position and strong protections for freedom of expression to report on news from across Asia, free from the harsh constraints and censorship that stifle the press in mainland China. But according to PEN’s report, Hong Kong’s position as a media hub and harbor for press freedom is increasingly insecure. The report documents targeted economic pressures on pro-democracy newspapers and broadcast stations, staff reshufflings at major news organizations that have been interpreted as efforts to silence critical voices, cyber attacks against online media, and unresolved cases of physical violence against journalists.

“Some of the most independent journalists and media outlets in Hong Kong are now operating in an increasingly unfriendly environment, constricting their ability to investigate and freely cover the news,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN American Center. “The confluence of attacks—economic, physical, and cyber—on press and media outlets in Hong Kong, coinciding with a period of political turmoil, drives suspicion about the future of press freedom in this crucial media hub. While the forces behind these incidents are shadowy, the pattern of interference and intimidation is hard to mistake."

The report calls on the government of Hong Kong to thoroughly investigate reported physical attacks on journalists and implement stronger protections for free speech online, and calls on the international community and press organizations to monitor and document press freedom violations in Hong Kong and to publicly support freedom of expression there.

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Founded in 1922, PEN American Center works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. Its 3,700 distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and advancement of human rights of such past members as James Baldwin, Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck.

CONTACT:
Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director: snossel@pen.org, +1 (917) 214-8665
Katy Glenn Bass, Deputy Director, Free Expression Programs: kglennbass@pen.org, +1 (646) 779-4818
Sarah Edkins, Communications Manager: sedkins@pen.org, +1 (646) 779-4830

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