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Hong Kong media advocates urge Govt to reconsider legislation impacting press freedom

Hong Kong Journalists Association warns proposed Article 23 laws in HK threaten press freedom, urging proof of “material damage” for national security offenses. HKMO supports HKJA, highlighting the need for careful legislation.



In a recent development drawing significant attention from both local and international media circles, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has submitted a memorandum to the government, voicing concerns about the proposed expansion of the 2020 Beijing-imposed national security law under Basic Law Article 23.

The 2024 legislation aims to criminalize a broader range of offenses, intensifying fears among journalists about the potential impact on press freedom.

The HKJA has recommended that the new domestic security law should require proof of “material damage” to national security for an offense to be prosecutable, addressing concerns that many offenses are currently defined too broadly.

“This broad definition could lead to prosecutions where there is minimal or no real risk to national security, disproportionately magnifying the severity of charges compared to the actual harm,” the association noted.

Furthermore, the HKJA insists on the necessity for courts to establish a defendant’s intent to endanger national security as a precondition for conviction, a measure aimed at safeguarding press freedom.

Supported by Hong Kong Media Overseas (HKMO), the memorandum emphasizes the urgent need for careful legislation to avoid ensnaring journalists in legal complications during their professional activities.

This stance is bolstered by the results of a comprehensive survey conducted by the HKJA, which revealed unanimous concern among 105 respondents over the threat the proposed laws pose to press freedom.

Despite criticism from the Security Bureau and the Hong Kong Federation of Journalists (HKFJ) questioning the HKJA’s representativeness, the historical significance and standing of the HKJA within the journalistic community cannot be overlooked.

Founded in 1968, it is Hong Kong’s oldest trade union for journalists and is affiliated with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), highlighting its credibility and the international support for its cause.

As the debate over the proposed legislation continues, the roles of the HKJA and HKMO, supported by international bodies like the IFJ, are crucial in ensuring journalists’ voices are considered in the legislative process.

This situation underscores the importance of global attention to the potential implications for press freedom in Hong Kong.

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