The Shift joins media leaders worldwide calling for the release of Jimmy Lai

The Shift and prominent media leaders worldwide have joined Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in signing a joint statement expressing support for Apple Daily founder and publisher Jimmy Lai, currently detained in Hong Kong, calling for his immediate release.

Among the signatories are publishers, editors-in-chief, and senior editors from 41 countries, including two Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

A group of 113 media leaders from 41 countries have signed a powerful joint statement coordinated by RSF. This call supports Jimmy Lai, an important figure in the global fight for press freedom and aims to draw attention to the worsening state of press freedom in Hong Kong and beyond.

Lai, a recipient of RSF’s Press Freedom Prize, has dedicated the past 25 years to promoting the values of freedom of speech and press through his independent media outlet, Apple Daily.

Lai, 75, has been in a maximum-security prison since December 2020 and denied bail multiple times. He is currently serving concurrent sentences for attending “unauthorised” pro-democracy protests and facing allegations of fraud.

Most alarmingly, he now faces a possible life sentence under the draconian national security law, with his trial scheduled to start on 25 September.

“We stand with Jimmy Lai. We believe he has been targeted for publishing independent reporting, and we condemn all charges against him. We call for his immediate release,” the signatories declared, also calling for the release of all 13 currently detained journalists in Hong Kong and for any remaining charges to be dropped against all 28 journalists currently targeted under national security and other laws.

In the last three years, China has used the national security law and other laws to justify the prosecution of 28 journalists, press freedom advocates, and collaborators in Hong Kong.

Of those 28 individuals, 13 are still being detained, including Lai and six members of the Apple Daily staff. Additionally, the newspaper has been shut down – a move seen as the final nail in the coffin of press freedom in Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong is now a city shrouded in a blanket of fear. Those who criticise the authorities are threatened, prosecuted, imprisoned. My father has been in prison since 2020 because he spoke out against CCP power. Because he stood up for what he believed. It is deeply moving to now see so many powerful voices – Nobel prize winners and many of the leading newspapers and media organisations across the world – speak out for him,” said Sebastien Lai, the son of Jimmy Lai.

The Shift interviewed Sebastien Lai last month with Matthew Caruana Galizia who has been supporting the case.

Matthew Caruana Galizia has expressed support for Sebastien Lai’s father, Jimmy Lai, who was incarcerated by the Chinese state in Hong Kong for publishing pro-democracy media. Photo: Sean Montebello.

Hong Kong is ranked 140th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, having plummeted down the rankings from 18th place in just 20 years. China itself ranked 175th of the 180 countries and territories surveyed.

“We have brought these powerful voices together to show that the international media community will not tolerate the targeting of their fellow publisher. When press freedom is threatened anywhere, it is threatened everywhere. Jimmy Lai must be released without further delay, along with all 13 detained journalists, and urgent steps are taken to repair the severe damage that has been done to Hong Kong’s press freedom climate over the past three years before it is too late,” said RSF’s Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.

The Shift’s founder and managing editor Caroline Muscat joined signatories that include 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureates Dmitry Muratov (Novaya Gazeta, Russia) and Maria Ressa (Rappler, the Philippines), publisher of The New York Times A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of The Washington Post Fred Ryan, as well as editors from a wide range of major newspapers in Europe and around the world.

The full statement and the complete list of signatories can be found here.


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