According to the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), at least 10 journalists working for local and international organizations were denied applications to cover events for “security reasons”.
“With the media unable to send journalists to the field, HKJA expresses its great regret for the rigid reporting arrangements made by the authorities for such a major event,” the press group said on Tuesday.
Reuters, Agence France-Press (AFP) and the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post were among the media whose journalists were blocked from covering the ceremonies, according to HKJA.
CNN has contacted media companies for comment. A Hong Kong government spokesman said authorities were achieving “a balance as much as possible between the need for media work and security requirements”.
Reuters reported that two of its reporters had been banned from covering the handover ceremony and the inauguration of Hong Kong chief executive John Lee. He quoted a Reuters spokeswoman as saying the news agency was seeking further information on the matter.
CNN’s request to attend the event was also denied.
“The government told CNN that the police rejected the application, but refused to elaborate,” a company spokesman said. “CNN is disappointed that it is not attending the official event, but will continue to report on the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.”
The spokesman said the Hong Kong government had told CNN it “would not comment on the outcome of the accreditation of organizations and individuals”.
Journalists whose applications were rejected would not be able to cover the national flag-raising ceremony and the oath of Lee, the new city leader and former security chief.
The government’s Information Services Department issued invitations to news organizations on June 16, allowing only one journalist per media outlet to cover each event.
Each media representative was asked to perform daily PCR tests starting June 26 before being given official approval or rejection on June 28 and going to the hotel quarantine on June 29 as part of coronavirus-related preventive measures.
‘Serious deviation’ from press freedom
The Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong said Wednesday it was “deeply concerned” by reports that accreditation had been denied.
“In the past, similar official events were open to media registration without invitation or verification,” the FCC said in a statement Wednesday.
“The FCCHK sees these restrictions implemented without detailed explanation as a serious deviation from that stated commitment to press freedom,” he said.
Beijing imposed a national security law on the city in the wake of anti-government protests in 2019. Since then, critics claim that some of the freedoms China promised to protect in surrender 25 years ago have been restricted.
Hong Kong the government rejects suggestions that press freedom has been undermined, but the future of local independent reporting looks bleak. Although there are still major international media outlets, including CNN and Bloomberg operating major newsrooms in the city, few important independent local media outlets remain.
Some of the city’s biggest pro-democracy media have collapsed following heavy government pressure, a series of arrests and police raids on their newsrooms.
CNN Beijing’s office contributed to this report.
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