Citizen News, one of the last functioning independent news organisations in Hong Kong, has announced that it will cease its operations from Tuesday owing to the “deteriorating media environment.” It is the third media house in the erstwhile British colony to shut down in recent times after Stand News last week and Apple Daily in June 2021.
Citizen News is shutting down after functioning for five years. It was founded on January 1, 2017 by a group of veteran journalists and has been supported entirely by crowdfunding, according to a CNN report.
“We have never forgotten our original intent,” the statement from Citizen News read. “Sadly, we can no longer strive to turn our beliefs into reality without fear because of the sea change in the society over the past two years and the deteriorating media environment. At the centre of a brewing storm we found ourselves in a critical situation. In the face of a crisis, we must ensure the safety and well-being of everyone on board.”
The changes alluded to in the statement refer to the passage of the national security law in 2020 and the crackdown on press freedom in its aftermath. The law was implemented in the wake of the civil disobedience movement that broke out in Hong Kong in 2019. It is aimed at censoring voices that endorse, support, glorify, encourage, or incite activities that might “endanger national security.”
The new law has curbed the freedom of citizens in several ways, with news agencies becoming a primary target. The most recent of these was the pro-democracy media house Stand News that ceased functioning on December 30 after six of its employees were arrested and tons of journalistic material seized following a raid at its offices.
Over 200 police personnel were deployed to conduct the raid on the media outlet. Acting chief editor Patrick Lam, former editor-in-chief Chung Pui-kuen, former director and ex-chief editor of the science section Chow Tat-chi, and former board members Christine Fang, pro-democracy singer Denise Ho, and barrister Margaret Ng were arrested by the authorities. While the last four were released a day later, Lam and Pui-kuen have been charged with allegedly conspiring to publish seditious content.
Earlier, in June 2021, another pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, shut down operations after it was raided and its executives were arrested for alleged “collusion with a foreign country.” Additional charges were imposed last week against its founder Jimmy Lai and six other former staff members as part of their trial under the national security law.
Citizen News’ exit now leaves Hong Kong with even fewer independent news organisations.