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NL Team

Hong Kong’s top court quashes journalist Bao Choy’s conviction, upholds press freedom

In a rare court ruling upholding press freedom, Hong Kong’s top court on Monday overturned the conviction of journalist Bao Choy in a case related to making false statements to access information for her investigative documentary.    

Choy had accessed vehicle registration records for the documentary, “7.21 Who Owns the Truth”, on the 2019 attack on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters.

Before acquiring the information, she had declared in an online form that she would use the data for “other traffic and transport related issues”. In April 2021, she was convicted for making these “false statements” to access the information and fined 6,000 Hong Kong Dollars.

However, the top court’s judgement, as reported in Washington Post, said, “The issues of falsity and knowledge were wrongly decided against the appellant because her journalistic investigation into the use of the vehicle on the dates in question did fall into the wide catchall category of ‘other traffic and transport related matters’.”

It further said that even if the journalistic investigation did not fall in that category, it was “not an irresistible inference that she knew that to be false” and there is no reason that “bona fide journalism” should be excluded from the phrase.

Choy’s reportage, attempting to track down the perpetrators of the mob attack, had won the Chinese-language documentary award at the Human Rights Press Awards in 2021. 

Hong Kong ranked 140th of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index released last month. Meanwhile, India’s ranking slipped to 160th. Indian journalists have been consistently raising the issue of shrinking press freedom in the country. Watch the Hindu Publishing Group’s director N Ram speak with Newslaundry on censorship, threats to press freedom, and the government’s ad cuts in India here.

Newslaundry is a reader-supported, ad-free, independent news outlet based out of New Delhi. Support their journalism, here.

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