IFJ Condemns Interference in Editorial Independence in Hong Kong

 

The International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) condemns the interference by senior management of Asia

Television Ltd (ATV) with the editorial independence of its newsroom, as

revealed in the recent findings of the Broadcasting Authority of Hong Kong.

 

On the night of July 6, ATV aired a false report

that the former President of China, Jiang Zemin, 84, was dead. Shortly

afterwards the colour of the TV station logo was changed from red and orange to

black.

 

On December 5, the Chairperson of the Broadcasting

Authority of HK, Ambrose Ho, announced the findings of the inquiry into the ATV’s

false news report.

 

The findings revealed that Kwong Hoi-Ying,

Senior Vice CEO of ATV, had interfered with the independence of the news room.

On July 6, Kwong had called Tammy Tam Wai-Yee, Vice President of the news

department, ordering her to air the death report of Jiang Zemin on that night’s

evening news bulletin. However, Tam and her senior supervisor, Leung Ka-Wing,

the then-Senior Vice President of the News and Public Affairs Department, were

unable to verify the information. Leung called Kwong seeking to delay the

report until the information could be verified, but Kwong refused and

repeatedly urged Leung to air the report as soon as possible. Kwong further

reassured Tam and Leung that he and the company would bear any responsibilities

for the report.

 

The Broadcasting Authority stated that ATV

was also slow to correct its false report of Jiang’s death, failing to retract

its report until well after the story had been confirmed as “pure rumour” by state-owned

media group, Xinhua, the following day.

 

Following the Broadcasting Authority’s report,

on September 5, Leung Ka-Wing announced his resignation. The reason given by

Leung for his departure was that he had, “failed to stop that news report [the

unconfirmed report of death of Jiang Zemin] from being aired despite my all-out

efforts”. Tam Wai-Yee also tendered her resignation on the same day, but was later

encouraged to take leave.

 

For airing false news, in breach of the

Generic Code of Practice, ATV was fined HK$ 300,000 (approximately US38,000). Two

of ATV’s business news programmes were also found in breach of the code.

However the broadcasting authority only issued warnings to the company on these

matters.

 

The Hong Kong Legislative Council has also

indicated that it will be meeting with the chairperson of the Broadcasting

Authority, Kwong and other ATV board members to discuss the matter. ATV’s

broadcasting license is due for consideration for renewal by the Bureau of

Commerce and Economic Development in 2015

 

In his comments at the official release of

the findings, the Chairperson noted that ATV management was irresponsible in

not cooperating fully and providing sufficient evidence to the broadcasting

authority’s investigative team. It was also noted that Kwong had given

inconsistent evidence to the authority when attempting to explain the cause of

the incorrect report.

 

The report made no reference to Wang Zhang,

a high profile investor who bought a large number of convertible ATV shares and to whom some had initially

attributed the interference, because of his heavy involvement in ATV’s

activities since March 2010. Ho explained that Wang was not a target of

investigation in this report, but that he would be the subject of another

report to be announced soon. Ho said there was no evidence to prove Wang was

involved in the inaccurate report.

 

The report failed to reveal the source of

the false claim or what measures ATV will be taking to ensure such mistakes are

not repeated.

 

“Editorial Independence is fundamentally important for the

media”, IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

 

”It is the media’s responsibility to the

public to report the news independently and fairly. Without editorial

independence, the media loses credibility and the confidence of the public it

serves.”

 

The IFJ commends the release of the

Broadcasting Authority’s independent report, and welcomes the decision by the

Hong Kong Legislative Council to investigate further the interference in ATV by

senior management.

 

The IFJ also urges full consideration of

theses issue by the Bureau of Commerce and Economic Development, in its

decision-making process regarding the renewal of ATV’s broadcasting license.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

 

Find the

IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

 

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