The New York Times will relocate its digital news operations from its Asia headquarters in Hong Kong to Seoul, the newspaper has confirmed to Campaign.
In a statement, the publisher said:
Given the uncertainty of the moment, we are making plans to geographically diversify our editing staff around the region. We will maintain a large presence in Hong Kong and have every intention of maintaining our coverage of Hong Kong and China. We plan to retain our business and print hub in Hong Kong while, over time, moving our digital editing hub to Seoul, giving us flexibility while keeping all of our resources easily accessible and in the region.
In a report by the New York Times itself, the paper reported that the move is related to a sweeping new national security-law that has “unsettled news organisations and created uncertainty about the city’s prospects as a hub for journalism”.
Prior to the official announcement of the move, Campaign Asia-Pacific reached out to New York Times on Tuesday (July 14) to enquire about the impact of the security law on the US news organisation, and a spokesperson said:
We are paying close attention to the recent security law changes in Hong Kong and the potential impact on our business. Hong Kong has been a leader in supporting the rights of a free press in Asia for decades and it is essential that it continues to do so, particularly given the treatment of members of the independent press within mainland China and the global nature of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the report, the publisher noted that some Times employees in Hong Kong have faced challenges securing work permits. A third of staff in Hong Kong will move to Seoul over the next year, but staff covering the print edition, as well as advertising and marketing staff, will remain in Hong Kong.
China’s security law—imposed two weeks ago—has resulted in confusion and uncertainty over news coverage of the city, including the mention of pro-independence slogans. For instance, news outlet RTHK, asterisked the word “liberate” in a tweet linking to its article on the banning of one slogan on Friday.
In a statement, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, said the legislation uses wordings such as “whether or not by force or threat of force”, “a person who incites, aiding or abetting” and “a person who advocates terrorism or incites the commission of a terrorist activity” in portions of the law relating to “secession”, “subversion” and “terrorist activities”.
The association said: “We are concerned that Hong Kong people will be easily found guilty by words and the press would be incriminated by reasons of 'inciting, aiding and abetting'."
An association survey of 150 members showed that 98% opposed the new law amid “fears of personal safety and self-censorship”.
Tom Grundy, editor of the English-language Hong Kong Free Press, told The Guardian that the news outlet was taking steps to ensure its survival and the safety of sources. He said: “We expect to experience legal and bureaucratic terrorism in an effort to drain our resources, more than arrest or direct censorship—but we’ll see.”