May 14, 2021

World Press Freedom Day 2021: how you can help maintain press freedom

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By Tammy Tam, Editor-in-Chief From SCMP

Today we mark World Press Freedom Day. Reflecting upon almost 1½ years of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is clear that reliable information is essential in crisis situations.

It is apt that this year’s theme is “Information as a Public Good” as it draws attention to the invaluable role of journalists in producing news as verified information for the public interest. Having access to accurate and comprehensive news coverage has never been more important.

It is therefore important to understand why it is necessary to produce high-quality independent journalism – stories that we publish must be fact-checked and well-sourced because disinformation can spread as fast as the virus itself, and harm ourselves and people around us. News publications must be responsible in publishing factual stories that are objective, balanced and trustworthy. 

What would happen if journalists did not do their jobs? Imagine if there were no body to exercise the freedom to inform, educate and explain issues that matter. Does it make a difference if they operate with professional ethics to report factually and seek accuracy, fairness, objectivity, impartiality and comprehensiveness?

We strive to uphold SCMP’s editorial standards to protect the integrity of our journalism. We make it a point to be transparent and share these policies tomaintain trust with our readers.

Every day, journalists at the Post and other media organisations around the world work hard on the frontlines to ask the right questions and get to the truth. Our reporters often take great personal risks to bring you such stories.
The first known case of Covid-19 in China dates back to November, but the hunt for “patient zero” goes on. Photo: EPA-EFE
In March 2020, we examined Chinese government data to trace the country’s first confirmed Covid-19 case back to November 2019. We dug into classified Chinese data to uncover that a third of coronavirus cases might have been “silent carriers” and were not included in the official tally of confirmed cases. Scientists then were unable to agree on what role asymptomatic transmission played in spreading the virus, and a week later, China’s National Health Commission started to include asymptomatic cases in its Covid-19 statistics in a move to address public concern.
‘McRefugees’ lose restaurant shelter as Hong Kong battles third wave of Covid-19 cases
In Hong Kong, we examined the impact on the homeless of government shutdowns of restaurants, in particular forcing “McRefugees” back out onto the streets, as well as highlighting early that students and elderly care homes would be most at risk. We recently analysed the vaccine roll-out, and tempered expectations, pointing out that the city’s economy and political situation would still face uncertain times over the coming year. Our newsroom also reported on company retrenchments and the lack of collective bargaining laws to protect Hong Kong workers.
China’s Rebel City: The Hong Kong Protests
We have kept a close eye on Hong Kong’s political reform and election changes and asked hard questions around the meaning and implications of “patriots governing Hong Kong”.  We also covered the Hong Kong unrest with courage and conviction, and produced an anthology of our reporting on the protests that changed the city forever in “Rebel City: Hong Kong’s Year of Water and Fire”. In addition, our companion documentary, “China’s Rebel City”, showcased a comprehensive visual overview of Hong Kong’s biggest political crisis since its return to mainland China. Our infographics team’s nuanced visual stories also complemented our reporting.

We continue to report on China comprehensively with the fact-based, independent journalism that our global audience deserves, and we are dedicated to covering its impact on global affairs, and its complex relationship with the United States.
Illustration: Lau Ka-kuen
We have paid close attention to Beijing’s antitrust probe into e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the Post, and we have continued to report on China’s Big Tech companies and regulatory developments following the investigation, as well as scrutinise the impact of the new anti-monopoly guidelines.

We are living in a time when the public is awash with information, and verifying facts for public consumption and bearing witness to the truth have become more important than ever – even more so in a severely challenged media landscape.

At the beginning of this letter, I mentioned that journalists are on the frontlines for the battle for truth and for press freedoms. But they need not do it alone. For news to be a public good, it needs to continue being supported by the public. 

Readers can play a part in keeping news and verified information available. We ask readers like you to support our work so we can continue covering the issues that matter most. Your support is vital in helping safeguard quality journalism.

Thank you for being a loyal reader of the South China Morning Post. From all of us here at the Post, we hope you stay safe, healthy and informed.

With deep gratitude,

Tammy Tam
SCMP Editor-in-Chief
For more on this story go to: SCMP
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