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'HK journalists, bloggers at risk of extradition'

2019-04-18 HKT 12:48
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  • 'HK journalists, bloggers at risk of extradition'
The changes proposed to extradition laws by the Carrie Lam administration will put every journalist and blogger in Hong Kong at a permanent risk, an international press group warned on Thursday.

Reporters Without Borders also said Hong Kong’s press freedom situation has worsened in the past year and said “censorship has become the norm and leading traditional media have pressure to comply with what Beijing’s dictates”.

The group’s East Asia Bureau director, Cedric Alviani, said Hong Kong people need to do everything they can to object to the government’s proposed changes to extradition laws.

Alviani noted that Causeway Bay bookseller Gui Minhai and some other prisoners on the mainland were arrested “on a false motive”, and later accused of other more serious crimes.

"This is a major concern. The rule of law has to be of total predictability that can not be a floating redline that would threaten journalists," he said.

Briefing the media in Hong Kong for the first time as it released its annual world press freedom index, the Paris-based organisation said the SAR is now ranked 73rd in the list of 180 places, down three spots from the previous year.

The mainland remains down at the bottom of the list, with the fourth worst record. The Communist Party rulers are suppressing all debate in the state-owned media and cracking down relentlessly on citizen-journalists trying to make dissenting voices heard, Reporters Without Borders said.

The group said the mainland’s anti-democratic model, "based on Orwellian high-tech surveillance and manipulation is all the more alarming as Beijing is promoting its adoption internationally".

Taiwan was ranked at 42 this year, which the group categorised as a satisfactory position.

The global report also warned of political leaders whipping up hostility towards the media, saying leaders have "incited increasingly frequent acts of violence that have fuelled an unprecedented level of fear and danger for journalists".

"If the political debate slides towards a civil war-style atmosphere, where journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger," RSF chief Christophe Deloire said in Paris.

The period since President Donald Trump's election in 2016 has been one of the "American journalism community's darkest moments", the report added.

"Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection," it added.

The watchdog fears that the rising tide of strongman leaders "no longer seem to know any limits", citing the gruesome murder of the Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. (Additional reporting by AFP)