Experts say new policy enables government to decide who is a journalist and curbs power of student and online journalism

Press conference
Media groups have called for the new policy to be withdrawn Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Hong Kong authorities have moved to further constrain the city’s free press with an announcement by police that they would no longer recognise certain types of media accreditation.

Critics accused the police force of infringing the constitutionally enshrined free press, by attempting to create a government licensing system and reduce independent monitoring of their activities.

Under the announcement the police force will recognise journalists from “internationally recognised and renowned” foreign outlets only or from media organisations that are registered with the government information system.

It explicitly stated it would no longer recognise the accreditations given by major associations such as the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (HKPPA), which represent hundreds of journalists.

The new policy would restrict those not recognised from attending press conferences, and would likely see less protection or assistance for individual journalists during protests and police-run operations.

The HKJA, HKPPA, and five media unions demanded the new policy be withdrawn, “or we will respond by taking any possible and necessary measures”.

“The amendment allows authorities to decide who are reporters, which fundamentally changes the existing system in Hong Kong,” they said. “It will be no different to an official accreditation system, which will seriously impede press freedom in Hong Kong, leading the city toward authoritarian rule.”