Panel discussion at Lingnan delves into press freedom

Presented by the Department of English, a discussion on “The State of Press Freedom in Hong Kong and around the Globe” took place on the Lingnan campus on May 3 to commemorate World Press Freedom Day, which is recognised by the United Nations.


The event also served as a lesson for students in the importance of spoken English speaking and presentation skills, as well as the need for critical thinking and a broader understanding of topics with an international perspective. 


The moderator was Michael Luongo, writer-in-residence for the Department of English. And the five panel members were Emily Lau of the Hong Kong Democratic Party; Chris Yeung of the Hong Kong Journalists Association; Ilaria Maria Sala of PEN Hong Kong; Harvey Sernovitz of the US Consulate General of Hong Kong and Macau; and Cedric Alviani of Reporters Without Borders. They addressed a number of crucial issues and situations affecting press freedom and the media in Hong Kong and further afield.


The Hong Kong Journalists Association recently noted that the city recorded a new five-year low for press freedom, based on a rating from interviews with the public. It also dropped this year to 73rd in the Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, having been as high as 18th in 2002.


“The local media are prone to allows self-censorship on politically sensitive topics which in turn impacts more on press freedom,” said Yeung.


Former journalist and lawmaker Emily Lau was of the opinion that the current hot topic of the extradition law may lead reporters to keep a closer guard on what they say, so as to avoid unwanted controversies.


According to RSF, less press freedom has also been seen around the world.


“Communication is about putting something in your brain, attempting to make you think what I want you to think, like what others do to promote and sell their products,” said Alviani, who is head of the RSF East Asia bureau. “Both may use the same tools, but in principle they are opposites. Journalism should never be considered as a way of communication or a way of propaganda.”


Harvey Sernovitz, Assistant Public Affairs Officer at the US Consulate General, pointed out that, in a democratic society, journalists play an important role to reflect perspectives from diverse angles.


“There’s a very [big] change in technology affecting how news is broadcast and distributed,” said Ilaria Maria Sala, vice president of PEN Hong Kong. “It’s important for readers to differentiate between opinions and facts.”


After the panel discussion, the Hong Kong Photojournalism exhibit slideshow prepared by the Lingnan University Journalism Principles and Social Media students was presented.