After seven arrests in another outlet last week, CitizenNews reporters believe they can no longer work safely.
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Journalists from the Hong Kong news site CitizenNews on Monday (January 3) denounced the decline in press freedom in the territory, hours after announcing a cessation of their activities for fear for their safety. The closure comes less than a week after that of the pro-democracy news site Stand News, which was targeted by searches and seven arrests for “seditious publication”, the latest example of the crackdown on the local press by authorities loyal to Beijing.
CitizenNews, a non-partisan news site founded in 2017 by a group of veteran journalists and funded by its readers, is one of Hong Kong’s most popular online news outlets, with more than 800,000 subscribers on social networks. It announced its closure on Sunday, specifying that its website would no longer be updated as of midnight Monday evening.
On this final day, journalists explained that their decision was rooted in the raid carried out last week on Stand News. “We have done our best not to break any laws, but it is difficult to know the outlines of law enforcement and we can no longer feel safe to work.”Chris Yeung, co-founder of CitizenNews and former chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), told reporters. “Journalists are also human beings who have families and friends”, he added.
Chris Yeung said his editorial staff had not been contacted by law enforcement, but decided to shut down due to what happened in other media. The former British colony has long been considered, due to its great autonomy from Beijing, as a bastion of press freedom in Asia and many international media had established their regional headquarters there.
But the climate for the press has deteriorated considerably with the muscular recovery that followed the popular mobilization of 2019. A draconian law on national security, imposed by Beijing in 2020, has become the main instrument of repression against dissent . In June, the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily had closed after the freezing of its assets and the arrest of its leaders.