Year in balance: Defending press freedom, promoting members’ interests

Hong Kong Journalists Association

[中文][Aug 2011 - The JournalistThe Hong Kong Journalists Association has long been known for its rigorous defence of press freedom and the freedom of expression. In 2010/11 HKJA also intensified efforts to enhance the interests of its members as well as the media industry as a whole. This was generally acknowledged by the public at large. The eventful year saw a much better balance in the two main spheres of our work.

On safeguarding press freedom, HKJA issued six statements, organized one press conference, wrote two letters to the Liaison Office and one letter to the Department of Health, in addition to meeting with officials from ISD, the Police and Fire Services Department. Most of the statements issued were in protest against the suppression of journalistic works and unfounded allegations made by the Mainland government. Others were about the information release mechanism for spot news and an attempt to influence the media by withdrawing advertisements. (See Table 1)

However, HKJA has not and will not focus its mind narrowly on press freedom alone. We also strive for freedom of expression in general. During the year under report, HKJA made one submission, issued two statements, participated in one petition presentation and co-hosted a night’s vigil in pursuit of this fr    eedom of expression.

Striving for Welfare of Members

HKJA, as the only trade union in the industry, puts considerable effort into fighting for the welfare of its members. This is a matter of paramount importance, notwithstanding the efforts put into the struggle for freedom of expression in general and press freedom in particular which have broader appeal to the general public. In the past 12 months, we organized a dozen activities and co-organized three press awards.

Those activities aim to enhance professionalism, provide light relief and exercise, as well as strengthen ties between members and public figures of interest and importance to journalists and their work. The “Greenhorn Financial Workshop” launched for first time was a great success with more than 100 reporters participating. Judging by the popularity of the activities, the Executive Committee believes that we are headed in the right direction.

HKJA, as a trade union, has pursued the implementation of the five-day week in the industry. We also conducted a salary survey and participated in the May Day March. The survey drew wide attention from society as well as the media industry. We hope that the managements and the frontline journalists will work out methods together to resolve problems so as to encourage talented people to stay on. As a result, quality of news reporting can be upgraded.

Strong links with international organizations is another achievement, though not attention-grabbing, of our JA. Apart from participating in international and regional campaigns, sending representatives to attend international conferences, we also briefed foreign guests, at their request, on freedom of expression in Hong Kong. Chairperson Mak Yin-ting and Honorary Secretary Phyllis Tsang attended two international conferences organized by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). In this regard the annual report on freedom of expression is regarded by the international community as important reference material in understanding Hong Kong.

Another perennial work of JA is the publication of The Journalist. We published four issues. The latest one will be delivered in August. It is the valuable efforts of the seven members of the Editorial Board and volunteers who ensure the periodical is produced on time. Their efforts have drawn compliments from readers.

Ten Percent Jump in Membership

The efforts of HKJA have been recognized by our fellow reporters and have encouraged journalists to join our ranks. (See table 2). Our membership reached a peak last February with 590 members, representing a 34 percent jump from 439 members when we took office last June. However, with some members failing to renew their membership, our latest membership stands at 482 which represents nearly 10 percent increase over last June's membership. With last June's high mark to start with, a 10 percent increase cannot be sniffed at. We hope the incoming Executive Committee will keep up the good work and take our membership to a new high. We also urge those who allowed their membership to lapse through inadvertently failing to pay membership fees to pay up or renew their memberships. It has to be known that membership is the yardstick of our work. Also, it is the source of strength in our continued struggle for the betterment of our whole industry.

In all, JA completed all these works with only two full time staff and 12 Executive Committee members because of the enthusiasm of executive committee members and the selfless contribution and support of all our members and non-members from media and non-media sectors. We extend our sincere gratitude to them all.
Owing to personal reasons or because they are leaving the media industry, Ambrose Leung, Albert Wong, Shirley Yam and Alex Koo are not participating in the election. The Executive Committee is grateful for their contributions in the past year and wishes them great success in their new careers or new chapter in their life.

The 2010/11 Executive Committee
The Hong Kong Journalists Association
25th June 2011

Table 1Work Related to Freedom of the Press and Expression

Statements/Letters/Press Conferences Submission Marches/ Petitions/Meetings
1 Condemn mainland police for putting Journalist on ‘most wanted’ list                                           (30/7) Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance Amendment Meet ISD: off the record” briefings 
2 Letter to the Liaison Office: the detention of reporters in Guangzhou                               (2/8) Petition at RTHK with Save RTHK Campaign
3 Statement: Editorial Independence of RTHK
Meet Police: Spot News Release
4 Statement: Concern over President Benigno Aquino's words        (26/8) Meet Fire Services Department: Spot news Access               (1/11)
5 Press Conference: Access to spot news information                  (12/9) Night vigil: Release Liu Xiaobo
6 Statement: Lu Xiao Bo awarded the Nobel Prize                            (8/10)
7 Letter to Department of Health: Press releases distributed at mid-night.                                    (28/10)
8 Letter to Liaison Office: Apple Daily was rejected to cover Asian Games                                  (19/11)
9 Statement: Journalists of Hong Kong was being slapped      (10/12)
10 Statement: Jasmine Revolution
11 Statement: Condemn the MTR

Table 2 Membership on 24 Jun 2011

  Full Associate PR Student Retired Total
Membership at 10-11 331 26 30 85 10 482
New Members at 10-11 78 4 6 66 0 152
Expired Membership at 10-11 54 3 9 50 0 116