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Hong Kong journalist acquitted of criminal charges in rare victory for media freedom

Award-winning Hong Kong journalist Bao Choy, front right, hugs Sham Yee-lan, former Hong Kong Journalists Association chairperson, after being cleared by the city's top court.
Award-winning Hong Kong journalist Bao Choy, front right, hugs Sham Yee-lan, former Hong Kong Journalists Association chairperson, after being cleared by the city's top court. Copyright Louise Delmotte/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Louise Delmotte/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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The award-winning reporter Bao Choy was found guilty of deceiving the government in 2021. But on Monday, a judge ruled in the journalist's favour, quashing her conviction and setting aside the sentence.

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An award-winning Hong Kong journalist on Monday won an appeal quashing her conviction related to work on her investigative documentary in a rare court ruling upholding media freedom in the territory.

Bao Choy was found guilty in April 2021 of deceiving the government by getting vehicle ownership records for journalistic purposes after she had declared in her online application that she would use the information for “other traffic and transport related issues”.

The investigative journalist had been trying to track down perpetrators of a mob attack on protesters and commuters inside a train station during the massive anti-government protests in 2019 for her documentary.

At the time, Choy was fined 6,000 Hong Kong dollars (€714) for two counts of making false statements at that time, a ruling that sparked outrage among local journalists over the city’s shrinking media freedom and which Choy herself described as “a very dark day" for Hong Kong journalists.

But on Monday, judges of the city’s top court unanimously ruled in the journalist's favour in a written judgement, quashing her conviction and setting aside the sentence.

She said she hoped the outcome would be encouraging news to all reporters still working hard in the city.

The story Choy co-produced, titled “7.21 Who Owns the Truth”, won the Chinese-language documentary award at the Human Rights Press Awards in 2021.

The judging panel hailed it as “an investigative reporting classic” that had chased “the smallest clues, interrogating the powerful without fear or favour”.

In the crackdown on dissent that followed the 2019 protests, two vocal media outlets - Apple Daily and Stand News - have been forced to shut down and some of their top managers have been prosecuted.

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