FactWire Becomes Latest Hong Kong Media Outlet to Close | #government | #hacking | #cyberattack

Investigative news outlet FactWire became Hong Kong’s latest media company to close Friday, in another blow to the city’s once-vibrant press scene now subdued by a national security law imposed by Beijing to quell dissent.

The announcement came a month after Hong Kong recorded its worst-ever ranking in a press freedom index compiled by rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders, with authorities wielding the law to silence critical news outlets and jail journalists.

The company did not give a specific reason for the closure in a statement posted on Facebook, merely saying local media had confronted “great change” in recent years and it was “time to end our journey.”

Last year Apple Daily and Stand News, two popular outlets critical of the government, closed after newsroom leaders were arrested and company assets were frozen under the security law.

A week after Stand News’ closure, Citizen News, a similar online outlet founded by veteran reporters, also shut its operations, saying they “no longer feel safe to work.”

FILE – Stand News chief editor Patrick Lam (center) is brought to the news outlet’s office building in handcuffs after police were deployed to search the premises in Hong Kong’s Kwun Tong district on December 29, 2021.

One of FactWire’s recent stories revealed the background and pro-establishment ties of the two sons of Hong Kong’s next leader John Lee.

On May 4, FactWire apologized after hackers obtained the email addresses and user names of about 3,700 newsletter subscribers.

It is unclear if the company’s closure was related to the hack.

FactWire said Friday it would cease operations immediately, dismiss all staff and suspend subscriptions.

“Despite having wrestled many times with the difficult decision as to whether to continue our journalistic work, we had always come to the same affirmative conclusion: to stand fast to our core values and beliefs, and to always report the facts,” the statement said.

“But to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose. It has, at last, come time to end our journey.”

The outlet was founded in 2015 by veteran journalist Ng Hiu-tung, who raised HK$4.7 million ($600,000) from 3,300 backers.

The company quickly gained a reputation for hard-hitting scoops, though it went through periods of financial hardship — at one point downsizing to only two employees.

Its investigation into a controversial police action during Hong Kong’s 2019 democracy protests won an honorable mention at the Society for Publishers in Asia awards.

That same project was also recognized by the Human Rights Press Awards, the latest iteration of which was canceled in Hong Kong after organizers cited legal risks.

China in 2020 imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong that has crushed dissent voices and seen dozens of democracy activists jailed as well as journalists.

Authorities have denied cracking down on press freedom, with leader Carrie Lam saying last month the media scene was “as vibrant as ever.”

Hong Kong’s next leader John Lee has said there is no particular need to uphold press freedom because it is something residents “already possess.”

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