MIRANDA PAK WRITES- An annual report on the state of press freedom in China offers little to cheer about for fans of Western style journalism and media openness.
The report “China’s Media War: Censorship, Corruption & Control” outlines dozens of instances of direct censorship, Internet surveillance, abuse of legal processes, harassment and intimidation, and televised confessions without trial in Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland China. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) study also documents at least 20 instances in which media workers were arrested, charged, and sometimes even sentenced just for doing their jobs.
The non-profit IFEX, a global network of groups promoting freedom of expression, noted that things were especially dire in Hong Kong during 2014’s Occupy Movement. On nearly 40 occasions, journalists were mistreated by Hong Kong police and/or anti-Occupy protesters. Also, during the Occupy Movement, “invisible black hands” pressured media outlets to skew their coverage of events.
IFEX predicts that Hong Kong will continue to be a hotbed of media manipulation and challenges as the election of a Chief Executive for the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong approaches in 2017.
Given the circumstances faced by media, it shouldn’t be surprising that an unrelated, recent survey finds Hong Kong residents are quickly losing faith in the powers that be, including the media.
Results of the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer show that Hong Kong citizens’ trust in institutions, such as government and the media, has reached the lowest level since the survey began in 2011. Hong Kong was the fifth most “trusting” nation in 2013 but dropped to seventeenth out of 27 markets. Media was hit the hardest, with its trust level dropping from 63 points to 41 points. But Hong Kong was not the only place to see trust drop. Seven of 11 Asia Pacific nations that Edelman surveyed also saw trust in the media fall.
Interestingly, for the first time ever, search engines are seen regionally as the most trusted media source, being used first and most often by readers looking for news online.