The chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Chris Yeung, said on Thursday the national security law appears to be a new tool to help authorities rein in the press – and could clear the way for tighter controls and regulation of so-called “fake news”.
“There are articles in the law that says the government will regulate, supervise media and foreign media – that seems to be a curtain-raiser to more control,” Yeung said.
The HKJA chairman said ideas that had been discussed among the pro-Beijing camp, such as control over online media, a law on “fake news”, and tightening visa arrangements for foreign journalists, could soon be on the way.
Yeung said he’s worried local journalists could be prosecuted when they report on issues thought to be related to national security.
“There are a lot of questions, worries that may not be answered, I think, in the near future until we know that some journalists or media organisations are in trouble under the law – being taken to the court, or ordered to produce the information or news material they collected,” he told RTHK's Candice Wong.
“Under the categories of crimes of secession, subversion, and terrorism, there are references saying that any incitement or promotion of those crimes is also liable to punishment under the law,” he said.
“The question is [whether] media reports, publishing a story, interviews, articles that are deemed [to be about] as secession, subversion, and terrorism, will that also be seen as an incitement or promotion?”
Yeung said he was also concerned after seeing journalists seemingly targeted during Wednesday’s protests, with footage showing the police’s water cannon truck aim towards at least one reporter.
“In fact, since June last year, police have been handling journalists with more use of violence and force and verbal abuses – that has not really changed in the past 12 months,” he said.
Yeung said if reporters are under threat or taken to court, that would be a big blow to not only press freedom but also to a free society.