Hong Kong Security Law May Hurt News Reporting, Press Group Says

(Bloomberg) -- A Hong Kong journalist group has raised concerns about a planned new security law, saying a broad definition of offenses could hurt journalists’ ability to report in the Asian financial hub.

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The Hong Kong Journalists Association said the proposed legislation will have “far-reaching” implications for the press and called on the government to protect journalists from being held liable for normal reporting under the law. Any overly broad definition of offenses concerning sedition, state secrets and foreign interference may “irreversibly jeopardize the freedom of expression and of the press,” the group said in a Saturday statement.

The new local legislation, known as Article 23, seeks to create new offenses such as insurrection and external interference and include a China-like definition of state secrets. A public consultation exercise for the law is set to conclude at the end of this month.

Members of the finance community have privately expressed worries over a potential chilling effect on open discussion of economic and policy issues. Previously, the European Union and UK Foreign Office raised concern over the erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms under the guise of national security in response to queries concerning Article 23.

All 105 respondents to the Hong Kong Journalists Association’s poll in February said the proposed law would negatively affect press freedom in the former British colony, with 90% of them describing the impact as severe, the group said.

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