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港大新聞系總監:不因國安法改變 續教學生報道真相 籲勿因恐懼自設紅線

2020/7/17 — 19:12

《港區國安法》上月底正式在香港實施,條例引起各界爭議。香港大學新聞及傳媒研究中心總監瑞凱德(Keith Richburg)今日(17 日)發電郵給師生,指國安法通過令新聞界受到更嚴格的限制,學術自由和新聞自由亦面臨重大挑戰,國安法釋義「故意」含糊不清,不明確劃出「紅線」,什麼行動或言論會觸犯法例,令北京可以用他們認為合適的方法執法,逼使所有人,包括新聞工作者採取防禦態度及自我審查。

但瑞凱德指,港大的使命是培訓下一代記者,報道事實、不畏強權、為弱勢發聲和追究公職人員及權力機構的責任,就算新聞界將面對嚴格的限制,港大亦不會教導學生退縮,記者應繼續說出真相,「新聞及傳媒研究中心不打算因國安法而作任何改變,我們會恪守使命」。

瑞凱德又在信中指,新聞自由最大的危機,是記者出於恐懼而開始自我審查,他們不會這樣教學生。他認為香港的新聞工作者將要學習與過去不同的運作方式,有如過去在極權國家採訪一樣。提醒記者日後必須更敏感地保護消息來源和受訪者身份,在無形和反覆不定的底線下尋找生存空間。他亦提到,就算是世界上對新聞記者限制最嚴格的中國,國內仍有大量曝光新疆集中營和肺炎爆發時武漢困境的報導。

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瑞凱德最後指,香港新聞界的未來,視乎到底記者是會退縮,自設紅線自我審查,抑或繼續用紮實資料充足的新聞故事來突破界限,「除非有人叫我們不要這樣做,否則我們會繼續教學生作後者,我們不會改變,我們亦不會離開」。

瑞凱德信件全文:


To say this unusual year has brought unprecedented challenges would be an understatement. I’d like to take this opportunity to let you know how we at JMSC are responding to two of the biggest.

The first of course is the coronavirus, which first appeared in Hong Kong around the Lunar New Year and, as of this writing, has led to more than 1,500 cases and 10 deaths. While Hong Kong has fared better than much of the region and the world, Covid-19 still meant disruptions to our teaching plans and the cancellation of some planned events.

The big question is for September and the start of the 2020-21 academic year. Our plan now is for a full return of face-to-face teaching in classrooms at Eliot Hall in September, but following strict social distancing guidelines and making sure there is some online component to our classes for any overseas students who may not be able to join us on time, either because of the quarantine rules or the disruptions in air travel.

The University is planning for a return to classroom teaching, but the campus might look and feel less crowded, as some of the larger lecture hall classes will be moved online.

The situation could of course change, depending on the course the virus takes in the coming weeks. Our goal remains to provide top quality in-person journalism instruction here on campus, but making sure we keep our students and staff healthy and safe, and follow government guidelines.

The second major challenge is the passage of the new National Security Law, which creates four new criminal categories, for secession, terrorism, subversion of state power and collusion with foreign forces. Of particular concern for us as journalists and journalism teachers is Article 9 of the new law, which is about strengthening “guidance, supervision and regulation” over schools and the media, and Article 54, which says the new mainland National Security Supervising Agency set up in Hong Kong will “strengthen the management of international organisations”—including non-government groups and news agencies of foreign countries.”

The new law also gives the police sweeping powers to conduct warrantless searches, surveillance and eavesdropping, and to force journalists and internet companies to turn over their notes and data.

Many have been asking what this means for the future of press freedom, academic freedom and the teaching of journalism. Is there even a future for journalism in Hong Kong?

At the moment, the specifics of the new law are vague, and that vagueness is deliberate.  By not spelling out precisely what actions or words count as secession or subversion—by not clearly delineating Beijing’s “red lines”—it gives the authorities the power and leeway to apply the law as they see fit, while forcing everyone into a defensive mode of timidity and self-censorship to avoid possible transgressions. That includes journalists, academics and others in the public space.

We do not intend to do anything differently at JMSC, as we adhere to our mission of training the next generation of reporters and imbuing them with journalism’s international best practices. That means teaching journalism that is fact-based, fair and unbiased, and that gives voice to the voiceless and continues to speak truth to power. The role of journalism is to hold public officials and powerful institutions accountable and to tell stories that need to be told. The biggest danger for press freedom in Hong Kong is if journalists start to self-censor out of fear, and we don’t intend to do that ourselves or teach that to our students.

Journalists in Hong Kong will need to learn to operate differently than they have in the past—performing journalism more like their counterparts in mainland China, or in other authoritarian or quasi-democratic countries where the press is severely restricted. Reporters will have to exercise heightened sensitivity about protecting the identities of their sources and data. They will need to navigate around the invisible and shifting “red lines,” the same way reporters in, say, Thailand, have to steer around strict lèse-majesté laws against insulting the king, or how journalists in Malaysia or Indonesia tiptoe around Muslim blasphemy laws.

China itself is one of the world’s most restrictive countries for journalists—but there is still great journalism coming from inside the Mainland, including exposes on the Uighur concentration camps in Xinjiang and the plight of Wuhan at the height of the coronavirus outbreak.

The future of journalism in Hong Kong depends on whether journalists are now going to cower in a defensive crouch, setting “red lines” in their own heads and giving in to the temptation of self-censorship. Or if they carry on, pushing the limits, testing the boundaries with hard-hitting, fact-based and well-documented stories that are beyond refutation.

Until someone tells us otherwise, we are going to continue teaching the latter. We aren’t changing, and we’re not going anywhere.

Keith Richburg
Director of the JMSC

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