HONG KONG — The shiny pamphlet from the police, delivered to newsrooms in Hong Kong, declared: “Know the Information: Rumors and Lies Can By no means Be Proper.” With it was a letter addressed to editors, decrying the “depraved and slanderous assaults” in opposition to the police.
The 12-page journal, distributed Wednesday to information shops together with The New York Instances, described the police’s efforts to push again in opposition to misinformation. In a single occasion, the division countered rumors that officers had attended a banquet with gang members, saying the police had held their very own non-public dinner. In one other, it accused an area TV station of smearing the police in a parody present.
“Pretend information is extremely damaging,” learn one graphic carrying the hashtag #youarewhatyousend.
Officers in Hong Kong are more and more seizing on the label of “faux information,” a typical authoritarian chorus. Town’s chief, Carrie Lam, stated on Wednesday that the federal government was taking a look at legal guidelines to deal with “misinformation, hatred and lies.” Town’s police chief has stated a fake-news legislation would assist combat threats to nationwide safety.
The rhetoric is elevating fears amongst activists that the label might be used as a brand new device to muzzle dissent.
The authorities have moved swiftly to quash the opposition in Hong Kong since antigovernment protests engulfed the town in 2019, utilizing a sweeping nationwide safety legislation to arrest many of the metropolis’s main opposition figures. On Thursday, a courtroom sentenced a distinguished activist, Joshua Wong, to a different ten months in jail, on high of earlier sentences for unauthorized meeting of 17 and a half months.
Town’s historically unfettered information media, recognized for protection that has been vital of the institution, has been underneath assault for months. The nationwide safety legislation, which requires elevated regulation of the media, has given the police and native officers highly effective instruments to constrain the press, however they’re in search of extra.
Mrs. Lam, the town’s chief government, has stated that the federal government was exploring laws to curb faux information, which she stated unfold on-line in the course of the protests and the pandemic.
“We’ve got seen the web, particularly social media, flooded with doxxing, hateful and discriminatory remarks and pretend information,” she stated in remarks to lawmakers in February. Mrs. Lam has stated that the proposed laws had but to be drafted as a result of the federal government was nonetheless inspecting how such legal guidelines have been dealt with elsewhere.
Like elsewhere, faux experiences on-line can generally be a problem in Hong Kong. Final yr, rumors of shortages drove the hoarding of bathroom paper and different provides. Unsubstantiated experiences of deaths in a subway station circulated for months in 2019 after police attacked protesters with pepper spray and batons.
In Asia, nations equivalent to Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia have handed legal guidelines in recent times to curb faux information. Whereas these governments have described the laws as necessary to forestall falsehoods resulting in threats to public security and nationwide safety, critics say they’ve been used to stifle dissent.
In Hong Kong, media freedom organizations stated they have been fearful that such a legislation could be used to focus on vital protection, placing additional stress on the town’s embattled information shops.
“There isn’t any doubt it’s the worst of occasions,” stated Chris Yeung, the chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Affiliation. Mr. Yeung stated that the federal government’s push in opposition to what it known as faux information was an try to keep away from accountability for public discontent.
“They can even attempt to redefine the 2019 protests as one thing that occurred due to deceptive info, not due to incorrect choices by the chief government,” police misconduct or failed insurance policies, he stated.
Hong Kong’s chief of police, Chris Tang, has warned that the police would examine information shops deemed to be endangering nationwide safety.
“Brokers of overseas forces disseminate faux information and disinformation to drive a wedge in the neighborhood, trigger division in society and to incite violence,” Mr. Tang instructed lawmakers final month. He singled out Apple Every day, a pro-democracy information outlet, for criticism, accusing it of “inciting hatred” in its protection of schoolchildren attending a nationwide safety occasion hosted by the police in April.
The newspaper had run on its entrance web page images exhibiting the kids enjoying with toy weapons at a police exhibition, alongside photographs of cops attacking protesters in a subway station in 2019. “There was loads of smearing focusing on schoolchildren,” Mr. Tang stated.
The police have lengthy complained about Apple Every day’s protection. The division says it has despatched greater than 100 letters to the newspaper in search of corrections and clarifications. The newspaper’s issues lengthen all the best way to its founder, Jimmy Lai, who’s serving a 14-month jail sentence for protesting in 2019, and is accused of fraud and colluding with a overseas nation.
The police have additionally bristled at protection by RTHK, a government-funded public broadcaster with a practice of unbiased protection. The police complained a couple of parody program that portrayed officers as trash, with an actor portraying an officer in a rubbish can.
The federal government has moved to rein the broadcaster in, changing its high editor with a civil servant with no journalism expertise in February. Underneath the brand new management the broadcaster has reduce two radio packages recognized for sharp political commentary and added a brand new present hosted by Mrs. Lam, the town’s chief, discussing an electoral overhaul imposed by Beijing that critics say would cripple the opposition.
The broadcaster was additionally on the middle of a intently watched courtroom case final month through which a former freelance producer for RTHK was convicted of constructing false statements to acquire public data for a report that was vital of the police. The journalist, Choy Yuk-ling, used the data for a documentary that examined how the police have been gradual to answer an assault by a mob on protesters at a practice station in 2019.
On Thursday, Ms. Choy’s documentary was honored in Hong Kong with a human rights award. “Chasing the smallest clues, interrogating the highly effective with out concern or favor,” wrote the judging panel, which known as it an “investigative reporting basic.”
The broadcaster has stated that it will not settle for the award.
Tiffany Might contributed reporting.