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Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Population: 7.6 million
Internet penetration: 92%

Press freedom in Hong Kong continues to be steadily eroded following the enactment of the controversial National Security Law in 2020. Meanwhile Hong Kong’s television broadcasters face mounting financial losses after advertising revenue plummeted during the COVID pandemic, speeding up the search for new business models.

The political ramifications of the National Security Law continue to reverberate among Hong Kong’s news media and journalists. The investigative news platform FactWire became the fourth news outlet to cease operations since the law’s enactment, following the demise of Apple Daily, Stand News, and Citizen News. Established in 2015 through crowdfunding, FactWire developed a reputation for investigative journalism and exposés on political and social affairs in Hong Kong and China. Its closure announcement did not give a clear reason.1

Earlier, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) of Hong Kong announced the cancellation of the 2022 Hong Kong Human Rights Press Awards two weeks before the event that was supposed to coincide with World Press Freedom Day. The FCC had administered the awards since 1996. In a message to members the FCC President noted that ‘there remain significant areas of uncertainty and we do not wish unintentionally to violate the law’.2 It was reported that a contributing factor was that several awards were won by Stand News, whose editors had earlier been charged by the government for publishing seditious materials under the colonial-era crime ordinance. The NGO Human Rights Watch and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University has assumed administration of the 2023 Awards.

The midterm review of the 12-year free TV and sound broadcasting licences by the Communications Authority, Hong Kong’s regulator of the broadcasting and telecommunications industries, included recommendations to the government that free TV and radio stations should ‘broadcast no less than 30 minutes of programmes on national education, national identity and National Security Law (NSL) per week’.3 For English radio channels, the amount of broadcast hours that must be in English would be reduced from at least 80% to 55%. All recommendations were accepted by the government.

These and other developments, such as direct criticisms by high-ranking government officials towards mainstream newspapers that published content portraying the local and Chinese governments negatively, have contributed to a precipitous decline in press freedom in Hong Kong. In the 2023 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Hong Kong ranked 140 compared with 80 in the 2021 index. It is a far cry from its global rank of 18 in the inaugural index published in 2002, where Hong Kong was the freest media market in Asia.

Despite these conditions, a range of online news sites have been established by former journalists in the last few years, including The Witness and, both reflecting public interest in a number of high-profile legal cases that are going through the courts. The Collective is a news site aiming ‘to report on people and events in a professional and fair manner, to monitor the powerful, and to seek the truth’, and Channel C and Mill Milk are new online video channels producing soft news content, among others.

Television remains an important source of news in Hong Kong but commercial broadcasters continue to post yearly losses and the easing of COVID restrictions are unlikely to improve their financial viability. One of the two pay TV operators, Cable TV, gave up its licence six years before its expiry date to focus on the free TV market as the number of paying subscribers continues to fall, especially as international subscription-based services such as Netflix and Disney+ have become more popular. While the reach of Cable TV’s i-CABLE news channel is relatively low compared with other broadcasters and newspapers, it has consistently been among the top four most trusted news brands in Hong Kong based on current and past Digital News Report data. According to Cable TV there are no plans to downsize its newsroom, though redundancies in other departments are expected.

The largest TV broadcaster TVB’s answer to plummeting advertising revenue has been a concerted strategic shift to e-commerce and expansion to the Mainland Chinese markets. Live-streaming e-commerce in China is a billion-dollar industry with triple-digit growth in past years. In 2023, TVB partnered with Alibaba’s online shopping mall and had its performers and artists appear in its live-streaming sales channels to promote various Hong Kong products to generate sales revenue. The results were well received by investors as TVB's stock price surged by 85%.

Michael Chan, Francis Lee, and Hsuan-Ting Chen 
Chinese University of Hong Kong

Changing media

The percentage of those accessing news from traditional sources such as TV and print continues to decline each year. Online news usage, which has been largely stable since 2017, declined by 5pp in the last year, partly driven by falls in social media.

Pay for online news



Trust in news overall


(=) 22/46

Trust in news I use


Overall trust in the news media (39%) has remained relatively stable in the past year, but trust in most news brands remained unchanged or rose slightly. Trust in the public broadcaster RTHK rose by 5% between 2022 and 2023 after dropping by a similar amount the previous year, when a change of leadership occurred and a government official, instead of a veteran news professional, was appointed to head the broadcaster.

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 44.86

Measure of press freedom from NGO Reporters Without Borders based on expert assessment. More at

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2 ‘Press Freedom: Important Notice from the President’.

3 ‘The Communications Authority’s Main Recommendations Accepted by the Chief Executive in Council’.

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