Golden Pen of Freedom Award

Award to Jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai and the newsroom staff of his now shuttered Hong Kong newspaper, Apple Daily

Golden Pen Of Freedom trophy
Golden Pen Of Freedom trophy awarded to Jimmy Lai and Apple Daily.

The Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom award of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), has been awarded to publisher Jimmy Lai and the staff of the Apple Daily newsroom in Hong Kong.

The award, made virtually during the 2021 World News Media Congress, highlights “the fears and challenges of journalists in Hong Kong, the region, and the world in the face of heightening curbs on their ability to do their jobs credibly and independently.”

“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 – the 2021 Golden Pen award recognizes, and reflects on, all of these,” said Warren Fernandez, president of the World Editors Forum, in announcing the award.

“Journalism is at the forefront of history,” said Sebastien Lai, accepting the award on behalf of his imprisoned father, Jimmy, and the Apple Daily Hong Kong staff. “It records the now and informs the future. It is a check against the powerful, and the voice of the people in times of strife.”

“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,” he continued. “Thank you very much for this award but please keep dad, the Apple Daily newsroom in Hong Kong, and the people of Hong Kong in your thoughts as these events unfold.”

Until its final print edition on 24 June 2021, Apple Daily was one of Hong Kong’s most popular Chinese-language newspapers. But on 17 June, Hong Kong authorities used the controversial national security law to arrest editor-in-chief Ryan Law and four other senior executives, and freeze the company’s assets as well as those of founder, Jimmy Lai – who at that point had already been in jail for over seven months. One week later, the paper was forced to close.

Following the passing of the national security law in June 2020, which opponents say severely limits freedom of speech and the right to protest in Hong Kong, Jimmy Lai was arrested on 10 August at his home for allegedly colluding with foreign forces – a crime under the new legislation. That same morning the Apple Daily Newsroom was raided by over 200 national security officers. Lai was soon released on bail, but by 3rd December 2020, he had been arrested once again for his involvement in unauthorized protests. He remains in prison facing six different charges that could lead to a life sentence.

Jimmy Lai has been an outspoken critic of Beijing’s control over Hong Kong and a high-profile supporter of the pro-democracy movement, making him, and his media company, regular targets for the authorities.

In 2013, a group of masked men ambushed his home, threatening workers and burning thousands of copies of Apple Daily. One year later, anti-corruption officials raided Lai’s home over leaked documents that showed he had donated millions of dollars to pro-democracy groups ahead of the 2014 occupy movement protests.

After fleeing mainland China at age 12 and settling in Hong Kong, Jimmy Lai worked his way from humble beginnings to lead a successful garment manufacturing empire. Following the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, he became an ardent critic of the Beijing government. He founded Next Media and in 1995, launched Apple Daily, which soon became one of Hong Kong’s most popular newspapers.

It wasn’t long before Apple Daily became a symbol of pro-democracy and public dissent. Its anti-government position resulted in advertising boycotts, as well as cyber hacks and attacks.

In April 2021, Apple Daily published a letter that Jimmy Lai had sent to staff from his prison cell –

“A journalist’s responsibility is to uphold justice,” he wrote. “The era is falling apart before us, and it is time for us to stand tall.”

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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