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Why World Press Freedom Day Matters

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

This week's blog is authored by Grace Young, the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation's Research and Marketing Coordinator.

In 1993, the United Nations established May 3 as World Press Freedom Day, marking 2023 as the 30th anniversary of this proclamation. According to the UN, World Press Freedom Day “acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom.” Not only does this day serve as a reminder to those around the world to “celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom,” but it acts as a reminder to “defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.”

World Press Freedom Day gives us the opportunity to remember those who dedicate their lives for the pursuit of free speech. According to the Reporters Without Borders' 2022 report, “a record total of 533 journalists are currently detained worldwide” showing the ever-increasing threat to journalists.

There have been many attempts to silence journalists worldwide. These attempts are no secret to Hong Kong citizens in a post-National Security Law (NSL) Hong Kong. As stated in the aforementioned Reporters Without Borders report, China is yet again the country that detains the largest number of journalists worldwide with 110 individuals imprisoned — 99 of these individuals are in mainland China, and 11 are jailed in Hong Kong.

Furthermore, China is the country that has jailed the largest number of journalists from the same company. In August of 2020, just a month after the NSL passed in Hong Kong, the first police raid of Apple Daily’s headquarters took place. Jimmy Lai, the founder and ex-chairman of Next Digital (the parent company of Apple Daily), was arrested. Jimmy Lai has been detained since December 12, 2020 for “alleged collusion with foreign powers under the new National Security Law.” Lai’s arrest represents the change that has taken place in Hong Kong post-NSL, and shows that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is no longer allowing the freedom of speech to flourish.

Not only has China detained the largest total number of prisoners, the CCP has also imprisoned the largest number of women journalists — 21 women total.

So why should we care about this international day of celebration?

These dictatorial governments are increasingly arresting journalists and threatening freedom of speech, and the arrests of journalists shows that the trend of authoritarianism is only growing. Hong Kong is the perfect example to show that the world is being split into two different sides: democracy versus authoritarianism. Not only is Hong Kong is a precedent to what China hopes to do overseas, but Hong Kong’s fate is linked to the preservation of freedom, democracy, and international law in the region and around the world. If we look at the jailed Hong Kong journalists and take no action, it will not just be a glimpse into the future of democratic societies, it will be the new norm.

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