The 2021 World Press Freedom Index is out and the Hong Kong government is “appalled” by what Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had to say about the city-states press freedom landscape, reported local news site RTHK.
On Wednesday (21 April), the Hong Kong government slammed the RSF after the international press freedom watchdog warned that the country’s security law is a “grave threat” to local journalism.
Hong Kong was ranked 80 out of 180 countries and territories on the Index, the same position from the previous year. However, it 18th spots lower when from its debut spot in 2002 when the index was first established.
RSF said in its analysis of Hong Kong that the national security laws there allows the Chinese government to directly intervene in punishing what it considers “crimes against the state”, noting that this is especially threatening to journalists.
The government responded by stressing that the national security law is applied equally in Hong Kong, and that no one is above the law.
A government spokesman said, “We are appalled by remarks made by Reporters Without Borders that seemed to suggest that people with a particular profession should be immune to legal sanctions.”
“Criminals who break the law must face justice. Arrest and prosecution actions were based on facts and evidence and strictly according to the laws in force, regardless of the profession or stance of the suspects.”
The government also asserted its commitment to protecting and respecting freedom of the press, pointing out that the media in the city-state reports freely.
RSF had also highlighted the “full-blown intimidation campaign by the government” against public broadcaster RTHK with the aim of restricting its editorial autonomy.
The government, however, dismissed the claim and said that RTHK is editorially independent, adding that it must fulfil its public purposes such as “engendering a sense of citizenship and national identity”.
The strong response from the Hong Kong government against the territory’s rank of 80th on the World Press Freedom Index begs the question: What does Singapore think of its 160 ranking?