Hong Kong: Former leader meddles over satirical content on public broadcaster

Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying has called for the sacking of the director of broadcasting for Hong Kong’s public broadcaster, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) warns against the political interference and meddling by the former chief executive in Hong Kong’s media.

Frame from RTHK program "Headliner" on February 14, 2020. Screenshot: RTHK

RTHK’s political news satire program Headliner, was the subject of Leung Chun-Ying’s (CY Leung) ire after an episode broadcast on February 14 about Hong Kong‘s police response to the

coronavirus. He subsequently posted on his Facebook account on February 16 calling for RTHK’s director of broadcasting, Leung Ka-Wing, to be fired for allegedly defaming police and threatening legal action from Hong Kong’s government.

RTHK is also accused by the Hong Kong Police of providing the public with false information and interfering with the ability of the government to combat the coronavirus. RTHK staff responded to a Hong Kong Police complaint, noting the program reflected questions and concerns of the broader public.

While no longer in leadership, CY Leung remains an influential voice in Hong Kong and remains the Vice-Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which advises the government on policy issues. He is also known for his routine and sustained campaigns against media outlets.

In 2019, CY Leung notably waged a public campaign against Hong Kong media outlet Apple Daily, which led by pro-democracy entrepreneur Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and known for its strongly anti-Beijing editorial stance.

During the Apple Daily stoush, CY Leung regularly uploaded images of advertisers from the media outlet to his Facebook to put pressure on businesses not to buy ads. In March 2019, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) issued a statement raising concerns about CY Leung’s comments over his disappointment with its coverage.

CY Leung led Hong Kong from 2012 to 2017, when he was succeeded by Carrie Lam.

The IFJ said: “Commentary and satirical news is an important component of political review and media coverage. The IFJ calls on the former leader CY Leung to respect media independence and to refrain from threats against Hong Kong’s public broadcaster. Such efforts reflect poorly on political leadership and serve to undermine Hong Kong’s press freedom which remains enshrined in its constitution.”

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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