Hong Kong dips in latest press freedom ranking

Hong Kong, once a bastion of press freedom, fell 68 places, slipping to 148 in the latest Reporters With Borders (RSF) ranking.

The region, which was 80th in last year’s press freedom rankings, has seen a steady decline since 2020, when Beijing passed a national security law aimed at silencing independent voices, said RSF as the report warned of “a new era of polarization” in the media.

The Hong Kong government takes orders directly from Beijing and openly supports its attempts to impose censorship and spread propaganda,” the report said as it highlighted the shutdown of two major independent news outlets, Apple Daily and News Booths.

« public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), once renowned for its fearless investigations, has been placed under a pro-government leadership that does not hesitate to censor programs it does not like,” he added.

RSF, which assesses the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories, blamed Hong Kong’s slide on the ‘ambiguous wording’ of the national security law which aims to gag anyone in the name of ‘fighting terrorism’ , “secession”, “subversion” and “collusion with foreign forces”.

“This is the biggest fall of the year, but it is fully deserved due to the constant attacks on press freedom and the slow disappearance of the rule of law in Hong Kong,” said Cédric Alviani, head of RSF’s East Asia section in Taiwan. office, told AFP. “Over the past year, we have seen drastic action against journalists.

Highlighting “the doubling of polarization amplified by information chaos”, RSF in its report warned that “media polarization [is] fueling division within countries, as well as polarization between countries internationally”.

“Within democratic societies, divisions are deepening due to the spread of opinion media following the ‘Fox News model’ and the spread of disinformation circuits amplified by the workings of social media,” he said. stated in the 20th edition of its report. .

“The confrontation between the ‘blocks’ is intensifying, as seen between India and nationalist Narendra Modi’s Pakistan,” said RSF noting a drop in India’s position from 142 in 2021 to 150 this year. .

“Originally stemming from the anti-colonialist movement, the Indian press was perceived as quite progressive, but things changed radically in the mid-2010s, when Narendra Modi became Prime Minister and brought about a spectacular rapprochement between his party, the [Bharatiya Janata Party]and the big families that dominate the media,” he said.

Highlighting the concentration of media ownership in a few hands, the report said: “The best example is undoubtedly the Reliance Industries group led by Mukesh Ambani, now a personal friend of Modi, which owns more than 70 media followed by at minus 800 million Indians”.

“Very early on, Modi adopted a critical attitude towards journalists, considering them as ‘intermediaries’ polluting the direct relationship between him and his supporters”, denounces RSF in the scathing report.

“Indian journalists who are too critical of the government are subject to campaigns of harassment and attacks from Modi supporters known as bhakts (devotees).

While Norway topped the press freedom index, North Korea replaced Eritrea and fell from 179 place last year to the bottom of the list.

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