At least 10 journalists denied permission to cover Hong Kong handover anniversary events

Speculation of 'political vetting' of journalists has emerged over the move

Hong Kong media vow not to be intimidated after attack

At least 10 journalists from more than seven media organisations have been barred from covering the official event of ceremonies marking the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from the British administration to China.

Officials from the Hong Kong government have defended the move and said the administration is “striking a balance as far as possible” between the need for media coverage and security protocols.

The event slated for 1 July will likely have Chinese president Xi Jinping in attendance for a flag-raising ceremony and the inauguration of incoming Hong Kong chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu and his cabinet of leaders.

A government spokesperson said they “will not comment on the accreditation outcome of individual organisations and persons” but did not provide any explanation on the media restrictions.

The barred journalists are from Reuters, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, Hong Kong 01, Now TV, Ming Pao and Agence France-Presse, according to the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

These are local and overseas media representatives, including one cameraperson from the Hong Kong government’s Information Services Department (ISD).

Another three organisations – Bloomberg, public broadcaster RTHK and state-backed Ta Kung Pao newspaper – were also barred, according to sources aware of the developments and cited by Reuters.

It is not immediately clear which media organisations will cover the historic ceremonies commemorating the handover of power from the British leaders to those in Beijing.

Media organisations and coalitions in Asia and abroad have condemned the restrictions on journalists and slammed the move as “political vetting” of journalists before they can report on high-level events, reported SCMP.

“At least 10 journalists working for local and international publications had their applications to cover the events rejected for ‘security reasons’, with no further information provided, according to media reports and comments from our members,” the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong (FCCHK) confirmed in a statement.

It added that this came after reports emerged of several local and international outlets being denied to even apply for accreditation for the events in the first place.

The group pointed out that “similar official events were open to media registration without invitation or vetting” in the past.

These restrictions, the FCCHK said, have been “enforced without detailed explanation” and are a “serious deviation from that stated commitment to press freedom” as it singled out the Hong Kong administration’s repeated assurance that the Chinese city’s “right to press freedom and free speech — enshrined in the city’s basic law — still exists”.

The statement from the journalists’ association said the 25th anniversary of the power handover, along with the inauguration of the new chief executive and the possible visit of Mr Xi make for a “seminal event in the history of Hong Kong, and a moment deserving of widespread coverage in the international and local media”.

Officials in Hong Kong should “immediately reconsider the restrictions to allow all outlets to cover this significant story”, the statement read.

Tabby Kinder, a journalist with the Financial Times in Hong Kong, said this was “another worrying sign for the apparent freedom of the press in Hong Kong”.

The restrictions on journalists from covering the state event comes when Beijing’s authorities are bolstering efforts to have an extensive security cover for Mr Xi’s visit, the leader’s first such trip outside the mainland in more than two years after the Covid pandemic.

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