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Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Population: 7.6 million
Internet penetration: 92%

Fears for press freedom in Hong Kong have been heightened by the introduction of new national security provisions, containing tougher punishments for offenders. Meanwhile media organisations continue to struggle to adapt to rapidly changing audience consumption habits and significant declines in advertising revenue, resulting in financial losses and closures.

The repercussions of the earlier National Security Law (2020) continue to reverberate in Hong Kong as journalists navigate uncertainties and potential red lines that could lead to charges of ‘secession’, ‘subversion’, ‘terrorism’, and ‘collusion with foreign organisations’. Based on a poll of its members, the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) found that two-thirds (67%) of journalists already engaged in self-censorship in their writing through avoiding certain topics; almost three-quarters (73%) were concerned about the possibility of arrest or prosecution from their reporting or editing.1 Many journalists have also left the profession. The number of members of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) declined from 800 in 2019 to the present number of around 300.

These challenges to journalism in Hong Kong will likely intensify with the enactment of the Safeguarding National Security Bill. Known as ‘Article 23’, the bill comprises several laws prohibiting acts of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion. A previous attempt to pass these provisions was scrapped in 2003 after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in protest. This time, public criticism has been more muted. While such laws are relatively common in many democracies, observers note that the definition and scope of some of the offences were too broadly defined, leaving journalists worried that they could inadvertently be breaking laws from their news-gathering activities. As noted by the HKJA2 and FCC3 in their calls for the provision of a ‘public interest defence’ to the bill, journalists could be imprisoned for having knowledge of potentially treasonous activities and not disclosing them to the police.

One bright spot for press freedom in Hong Kong was the successful appeal by a Hong Kong journalist, Choy Yuk-ling, to the Court of Final Appeal against her conviction for ‘knowingly making a false statement’ when she accessed the Transport Department’s vehicle registry database to identify the owner of a car as part of a TV documentary related to an incident during the 2019 Anti-Extradition protests. The database was routinely used by journalists in their investigative reporting, but there is no option for them to select ‘journalism’ as a reason for accessing it and hence they selected ‘other traffic and transport related matters’. As part of its judgment, the court noted the fact that ‘the appellant was exercising her freedom of speech and of the press in connection with investigating the events of 21 July 2019 should be taken into consideration’.4 The TV documentary that Choy Yuk-ling produced, ‘7.21 Who Owns the Truth’, was released under RTHK’s long-running current affairs series Hong Kong Connection, and it eventually won several press awards. However, RTHK, which is funded by the government, declined to accept them.

Meanwhile, the shift from offline to online advertising continues unabated in Hong Kong, with adverse effects on the local media environment. The free newspaper Sky Post ceased publication of its print edition after 12 years, and even though it still offered an online edition, numerous journalists responsible for the day-to-day reporting were dismissed. In their heyday, printed newspapers were ubiquitous in Hong Kong as 90% of the population used public transportation and free newspapers were handed out at train stations and bus stops. But increased digitalisation means that many newspapers ceased publication or have transitioned to online-only editions. This currently leaves Headline Daily, AM 730, and Lion Rock Daily as the remaining free printed Chinese-language newspapers, and The Standard as the only free printed English newspaper.

Despite significant audience reach for its news programmes, broadcaster TVB continues to suffer year-on-year financial losses as it struggles to attract advertisers. This has resulted in more staff cuts and the proposed reduction of free TV channels from five to four, which involves merging its news and finance information channel with a youth-orientated channel focusing on entertainment and lifestyle. YouTube has taken over from Facebook as the most popular social or video platform for accessing news, which partially reflects the trend of people paying attention to public affairs on the platform, including channels operated by commentators and activists who have emigrated overseas.

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

Changing media

The trend of declining consumption of both TV news and news via social media has slowed down in recent years. Print consumption has fallen by more than 20pp since 2017 but has also stabilised.

Pay for online news



Trust in news overall



Trust in the news has increased substantially from 39% to 55%. All news brands included in the survey also registered increased brand trust scores, with percentages trusting the brands rising by 5% to 15%. The few digital-only news brands remain relatively less trusted when compared to the more conventional news brands. 

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 43.06

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

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1 On Point: FCC Press Freedom Survey 2023.

2 ‘The Hong Kong Journalists Association to Lodge Submission to the Security Bureau on Basic Law Article 23 Legislation’.

3 FCC Submission on the Consultation Document of Article 23 of the Basic Law.

4 In the Court of Final Appeal of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Final Appeal no. 2 of 2023 (criminal).

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