Hong Kong working on 'fake news' law to tackle lies: Lam

HONG KONG • The government is working on "fake news" legislation to tackle "misinformation, hatred and lies", said Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam yesterday, as worries grow over media freedoms in the global financial hub.

Under Beijing's directions, Hong Kong has taken a swift turn following the imposition of a sweeping national security law last year, with a fresh drive for "patriotism" spilling into most aspects of life in the city.

A major overhaul of public broadcaster RTHK, led by a newly appointed bureaucrat with no media experience, is seen as a signal that government red lines will soon encircle journalism as they have other sectors, such as education.

Speaking at her weekly news conference, Mrs Lam said the government was researching "fake news", but added that she had no timetable for the legislation.

"The fake news law needs a lot of research, especially (on) how overseas governments are tackling this increasingly worrying trend of spreading inaccurate information, misinformation, hatred and lies on social media," she said.

"We will continue to be very serious about this because of the damage it is doing to many people."

Her comments come a day after broadcaster RTHK reported that it will not renew the contract of its journalist Nabela Qoser, known for her tough questioning of Mrs Lam and other officials during mass anti-government protests in 2019.

RTHK has also begun removing some of its archives from its YouTube and social media channels, prompting online activists to back up some of the content on blockchain platforms.

Another RTHK journalist, Bao Choy, was found guilty by a court last month of improperly accessing public records for a documentary on police handling of a mob attack on pro-democracy protesters, reporters and bystanders in 2019. Her documentary won a local press award the day before the verdict, which RTHK did not accept.

The July 2019 attack in northern Yuen Long district, when more than 100 men in white T-shirts hit people with sticks and poles at a train station, sparked widespread criticism of the police, including allegations of collusion with triad gangsters, which police deny.

Courts have yet to convict any of the attackers.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Hong Kong 80th out of 180 in terms of press freedom.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2021, with the headline 'Hong Kong working on 'fake news' law to tackle lies: Lam'. Subscribe