Hong Kong has fined a journalist for ticking a box. That shows the city's media freedoms are in jeopardy
 

Hong Kong has fined a journalist for ticking a box. That shows the city's media freedoms are in jeopardy

04/2021

// Hong Kong has fined a journalist for ticking a box. That shows the city's media freedoms are in jeopardy //

To Lokman Tsui, an assistant professor at Chinese University Hong Kong's school of journalism and communication, said the case is a sign the government is moving the goal posts.

Before the option to specify media was removed from the forms in 2019, journalist requests were common -- in some years, they made up a quarter of all applications. In a statement to CNN Business, Hong Kong Transport Department said the 2019 revision was to "better elaborate the purposes for the avoidance of misunderstanding" and noted that even before the change, the data obtained by the request was only meant to be used for activities related to traffic and transport matters.

But the case set a precedent that looking up a license plate for journalistic reasons is no longer legal — another blow for freedom of information, Tsui said.

Tsui said it also appears to show that authorities are prepared to go after journalists who dig up things that made them look bad. "It's hard to not see this as an attack on truth," he added.

In a statement to CNN Business, the Hong Kong government said any arrest had "nothing to do with the political stance, background or occupation" of the person concerned.

There are concerns that mainland China's increased economic influence on Hong Kong could exert pressure on media outlets in the city.

Clement So, a Chinese University of Hong Kong professor who studies Hong Kong's media landscape, said in the past decade, a growing number of media organizations had mainland Chinese investment, something he believed could lead to self-censorship.

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