HK pro-democracy political cartoonist terminated by text

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticise the recent decision by Next magazine to terminate a veteran political cartoonist.

One of Zun Zi's recent cartoons. Credit: Apple Daily

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticise the recent decision by Next magazine to terminate a veteran political cartoonist.

Zun Zi, well-known Hong Kong-based political cartoonist, had his freelance employment terminated by Next magazine on October 2. Zun Zi told the IFJ that he was informed his employment had been terminated via a text message, after he sent a message to an editor asking for his deadline. The editor did not provide an explanation for the decision. Zun Zi said: “The editor did not provide any explanation, I, actually, do not regret or feel unfair, I feel funny”. He went on to tell the IFJ that he understood the decision, and he would do the same if he was a billionaire and he could buy out Wen Wei and Global Times, two media outlets that are known for sharing propaganda of the Central Government of China. He added that the case illustrate the state of press freedom in Hong Kong, and the journalists and media workers need to remain alert, as the ‘New Political Era’ has changed. Zun Zi said all journalists “should stay firm in their position and never give up your rights easily!”

In July 2017, pro-democracy media mogul, Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, the founder of Next magazine and Apple Daily newspaper, announced that the parent company Next Digital Ltd had decided to sell Next magazine to Kenny Wee for HKD 500 million (USD 64,097,300). The Next magazine union immediately expressed concerns over the sale and potential for censorship. In an interview, Wee said that journalists should not use ‘coloured lenses’ to look at anyone including their new boss. In another interview he referred to some staff as a ‘tumour’, but not name specific staff members. Wee is known for his good relationship with the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong.

In recent years, Hong Kong’s press freedom situation has deteriorated, which is evident in the annual press freedom survey by the Hong Kong Journalists Association. 

In addition to the situation with Zun Zi at Next magazine, Hong Kong’s largest free-to-air television station, Television Broadcasting Ltd (TVB) was found to have breached the Direction on October 30, by the Communication Authority. The finding noted that TVB had breached the Direction when it was continuously granted a TV license. The finding comes after TVB removed an RTHK programme ‘The Headliner’ on July 1, during the 20th Handover anniversary. In the finding, the authority said they “strongly advised to observe more closely the Direction”, instead of imposing a fine. TVB refuted the findings, According to TVB’s license agreement, they have a duty to air RTHK content. Many believe that the reason TVB removed the program is because it carried a story about the death of activist Liu Xiaobo.

The IFJ said: “We continue to monitor the situation in Hong Kong, and are increasingly concerned about declining press freedom. Journalists in Hong Kong and China, face an increasingly challenging working environment, meaning that they must adapt and change regularly to survive.”        

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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