Editor for liberal Hong Kong media outlet out on bail after year behind bars

HONG KONG, Dec 13 (Reuters) - The former editor of a major Hong Kong media outlet, who stands accused of publishing seditious materials in a landmark press freedom case in the China-ruled city, was released on bail on Tueesday after being remanded in custody for nearly a year.

Chung Pui-kuen, 52, the former editor in chief of the now-shuttered liberal news site Stand News, was granted bail by district court judge Kwok Wai-kin.

The judge said he believed Chung would not engage in any acts endangering national security in granting him cash bail of HK$ 100,000 ($12,860), with conditions including a ban on media interviews and confiscation of his travel documents.

In December of last year, Chung, another former editor Patrick Lam, and the outlet's parent company, Best Pencil (Hong Kong) Limited, were charged with conspiracy to publish seditious publications. They were denied bail a day after a police raid on the pro-democracy media organisation that prompted its closure.

Chung and Lam have pleaded not guilty to the charge. Lam was also granted bail last month, partly on health grounds.

During the trial, prosecutors have accused the liberal news portal of publishing 17 seditious articles, including columns and interviews with prominent Hong Kong activists.

Audrey Eu, their defence lawyer, has applied to the court to terminate the trial on grounds that the prosecution improperly handled evidence, after it presented more than 1,500 pages of evidence that had not been previously declared.

Allan Au, another veteran Hong Kong journalist who occasionally wrote for Stand News, was arrested by national security police in April in connection with the case and is currently out on bail.

Stand News is one of several liberal media outlets, including the Apple Daily newspaper, that have been shuttered since China imposed a national security law on the city in June 2020. Media rights advocacy group Reporters without Borders said the city's media freedom ranking fell in 2022 to 148th out of 180 countries and territories, from 80th in 2021.

Hong Kong authorities have stated that media freedoms remain a fundamental right in the former British colony, which reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, with freedom of the press enshrined in the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

($1 = 7.7757 Hong Kong dollars)

Additional reporting by Jessie Pang; Editing by Edmund Klamann

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