Hong Kong: RTHK strips journalist of contract for critical reporting

Public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) terminated journalist Nabela Qoser’s three-year civil service contract, citing an ongoing investigation into her reporting as justification. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), condemn the political interference in RTHK and calls for the journalist to be fully reinstated.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (2nd R) waits for questions from the media as Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung (3rd R) and Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah (R) look on during a press conference in Hong Kong on September 5, 2019. Credit: Philip Fong / AFP

The 35-year-old program officer for RTHK regularly aimed hard-hitting questions to Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, and other government officials in the live-streamed press conferences during the months-long pro-democracy protests in 2019. Her work, particularly, also drew the ire of pro-government supporters. 

RTHK later launched an investigation into Qoser’s conduct after receiving complaints but cleared her of any wrongdoing. However, the public broadcaster reopened a probe into Qoser’s case in September 2020, and her probation period as a civil servant was extended by 120 days until the end of January 2021. 

On January 21, Qoser was informed by RTHK that her civil service contract was being terminated, and she was offered a three-month short-term contract instead. Qoser has already completed her three-year probationary services.

On January 28, more than 60 RTHK employees protested outside the public broadcaster’s headquarters against the unfair treatment of their colleague. Qoser later accepted the short-term contract.

The HKJA said: “The new investigation is clearly political intervention with the RTHK’s personnel matters that involved editorial staff. It involves political pressure from political parties, some media with official background and government officials. The HKJA is deeply concerned about the matter. We worry journalists being punished for having raised tough questions will create a chilling effect.”

The IFJ said: “The IFJ condemned the political interference in RTHK’s personnel matter and call on the public broadcaster’s management to urgently revisit and withdraw its unfair treatment of Qoser.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

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

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