Authorities in Hong Kong have moved to further restrict press freedom in the city with an announcement by police that they would no longer recognize certain types of media accreditation.
Critics have accused the police of infringing on the constitutionally enshrined free press by increasing government licensing and monitoring, reducing their capability to independently monitor government activities.
The move will only see journalists recognized if they are from “internationally recognized and renowned” foreign media outlets or if they are from local organizations that are registered with the government information system.
The police have explicitly stated that accreditations given by major associations such as the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (HKPPA) will no longer be recognized.
The new policy would restrict attendance at press conferences for those not recognized, and would likely see them lose the usual exemptions that apply to journalists during protests and police-run operations.
The HKJA, HKPPA, and five media unions responded critically, demanding that the new policy be withdrawn, “or we will respond by taking any possible and necessary measures”.
“The amendment allows authorities to decide who are reporters, which fundamentally changes the existing system in Hong Kong,” they said. “It will be no different to an official accreditation system, which will seriously impede press freedom in Hong Kong, leading the city toward authoritarian rule.”
Organizations monitoring press fredoom have expressed concern over the situation unfolding in Hong Kong over the past 18 months, especially since new national security laws were introduced almost three months ago. The semi-autonomous region has dropped 10 places in the Press Freedom Index since 2018, following multiple police raids on press rooms.
Hong Kong police face numerous accusations that they deliberately targeted journalists and photographers during pro-democracy protests that swept the region last year. Officers stand accused of deploying tear gas and using batons against journalists that had clearly identified themselves.