A couple of days after media magnate of Hong Kong Jimmy Lai announced that he would shut the Taiwanese unit of his flagship 'Apple Daily' later this month, he and his newsroom staff have won the Golden Pen of Freedom Award for defending Press Freedom. Currently, Jimmy is in jail, as he faces charges under a draconian National Security Law.
President of World Editors Forum Warren Fernandez has made an announcement in this regard, saying that the award recognized "the jailing of a publisher, the arrest of an editor-in-chief and his senior colleagues, the shuttering of a newsroom, and the closure of a media title".
Earlier, the National Security Police conducted a raid at the office of Jimmy's Next Digital Limited, and asked the media magnate to shut down the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper. In June 2021, the concerned authorities also froze his company's assets, apart from detaining several senior editors. Later, all of them were charged with "collusion with a foreign power" on the basis of the National Security Law.
Jimmy, who is all set to turn 74 on December 8, has been in jail for the last one year, as he is serving a 20-month prison term for taking part in an "illegal assembly". He had reportedly joined more than 1,000 people, who participated in peaceful protests. However, the Police claimed that they were allegedly involved in "rioting". The Police also called the protests "illegal assembly" as per the Public Order Ordinance.
Meanwhile, CÃ©dric Alviani, the East Asia Bureau Chief for Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), has issued a statement, stressing: "The detention and harassment of Jimmy Lai, who did nothing but exercise his right to impart and comment on factual information, demonstrates the determination of the Hong Kong government to silence a symbolic figure of press freedom." Alviani requested the global community to put the Communist Party of China (CPC) under tremendous pressure to secure the release of Jimmy and other defenders of Press Freedom. The RSF has also urged the UN to "take all necessary measures" in order to safeguard Press Freedom in Hong Kong, and to ensure Jimmy's release from the jail.
It may be noted that the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) had honored Jimmy's son Sebastien Lai with the Golden Pen of Freedom Award. After receiving the award, he stated: "Journalism is at the forefront of history. It is a check against the powerful, and the voice of the people in times of strife." Sebastien further said: "With Apple Daily closing in Hong Kong, and a crackdown against journalism across the region, there will be less and less people shining light in these dark corners."