Hong Kong journalist convicted for protest-related reporting

Hong Kong, Apr 22 (EFE).- A Hong Kong court Thursday imposed a fine of $800 on a journalist for making false statements in obtaining official data for an award-winning documentary about 2019 anti-government protests.

It is the first time that a court has sentenced a journalist for reporting about the anti-government protests.

It has raised fears over the dwindling press freedom as China widens its political crackdown for greater control over the former British colony.

Bao Choy Yuk-ling, 37, a freelance producer of public broadcaster RTHK, was found guilty on two counts of making a false declaration to obtain car license plate information from the public vehicle database.

Choy, arrested in November 2020, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Principal magistrate of West Kowloon Court Ivy Chui imposed HK$3,000 on her for each of the two charges.

Choy was one of the producers of an RTHK documentary “7.21 Who Owns the Truth,” aired in July 2020 to mark the first anniversary of a vicious mob attack in the suburb of Yuen Long.

The mob attack, which involved a group of white-clad men assaulting pro-democracy protesters and passengers at a metro station with iron rods and rattan sticks and injuring dozens, was a turning point in the protest movement.

It significantly heightened police-protester tensions.

The documentary, which won the prestigious annual Kam Yiu-yu Press Freedom Award Wednesday, tracks down the perpetrators behind the attack.

Choy searched through the vehicle database in May and June 2020 for information on a car owner believed to be involved in the attack.

Citizens can obtain vehicle license information via the database for transport-related reasons only, as per the Hong Kong transport law.

In the past, however, journalists have accessed government databases for investigative reporting without being prosecuted.

Speaking after the ruling, a tearful Choy said she was upset that the court ruled against a journalistic practice that had been in use for years.

She called for journalists to safeguard their journalistic values and not to give up.

Chris Yeung, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), said the conviction “sounded the death knell” for press freedom in Hong Kong.


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