torsdag 29. april 2021

Hong Kong has fined a journalist for ticking a box. That shows the city's media freedoms are in jeopardy

Last Wednesday, Hong Kong journalist Bao Choy was honored for her investigative work. The following day, she was convicted for it. In essence, Choy was prosecuted for ticking a box: She had used a government registry to trace license plates connected to a mob that had attacked pro-democracy protesters in a subway station in 2019.

In the past, journalists had been able to specify "media" on the form to explain why they were searching the database. But in 2019 the form changed, so Choy ticked "other traffic and transport related matters." That was a crime. The 37-year-old was accused of violating Hong Kong's Road Traffic Ordinance by making a false declaration and fined 6,000 Hong Kong dollars ($770).

To many onlookers, however, Choy's case wasn't about misused boxes. It was an attack on journalism. Although freedom of speech and the press are enshrined in Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, the media's independence and ability to report has come under threat in recent years. The controversial national security law, a sweeping piece of legislation passed last year, urges the government to further regulate media and the internet.