IFJ urges investigation into political interference claims at Hong Kong’s public broadcaster

 

Media Release: Hong Kong                                                             

March 21, 2013

 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges Hong

Kong’s Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting to use the Legislative

Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance to investigate claims of political

interference at the public broadcaster Hong Kong Radio and Television( RTHK)

after a senior staffer said he had experienced political pressure at the public

broadcaster.

 

On March 15, RTHK staff met after the Director Broadcasting Roy

Tang Yun-Kwong was accused of political interference in the editorial

independence of television programmes. Although Roy Tang repeatedly denied exerting

any political pressure on staff, Sze Wing-yuen, a senior staffer, said he and

his colleagues had experienced political pressure on several occasions. Sze refused

to explain further unless he was granted privilege under Legislative Council

(Powers and Privileges) Ordinance to reveal more about the incidents to Hong

Kong’s Legislative Council.

 

One accusation related to the political satire programme

Headliner being quizzed over why the programme had used Nazi characters in an

episode. Tang is also accused of abruptly scrapping a programme analysing

local Government policy and legislators. 

 

RTHK Union Chairwoman Mak Lai-Chan said that as RTHK is a public

broadcaster it has a duty to scrutinise Government policy but it is must not

serve as a “mouthpiece” of the Hong Kong Government. “We demanded Gregory So

Kam-Leung, the Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, to give explain

how the Bureau will deal with this matter.” Mak said. “We cannot rule out

strike action.” 

 

Gregory So and other senior Government officials including the

Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-Ngor have disputed the

accusations of interference, instead saying it is merely a communication

problem.

 

However, some Legislators have expressed concern over the

accusations and a few of former RTHK staff have begun a no confidence campaign

to protest Roy Tang’s alleged interference.

 

The IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said: “While the Director

Broadcasting repeatedly emphasizes that RTHK is a public service, he must

understand that editorial independence is crucial. Clearly, it is an

extraordinary situation when a senior staffer of the broadcaster feels it’s

necessary to seek privilege protection in order to tell what he knows to the

Legislative Council without fear of defamation. That staffer must be granted

that protection so the truth can come out.”

 

The IFJ urges Hong Kong’s Legislative Councillors to defend

press freedom and uphold freedom of expression. The IFJ recommends a special

meeting of the Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting to fully investigate the turmoil inside RTHK

and to take steps to protect the editorial independence of the RTHK and ensure

no-one engages in political interference.

 

For

further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131

countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

Find the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific