Hong Kong’s Transfer to Overhaul Broadcaster Followers Fears of Media Crackdown

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HONG KONG — The Hong Kong authorities on Friday referred to as for town’s public broadcaster to be extra tightly supervised by government-appointed advisers, in what pro-democracy activists say is the authorities’ newest transfer to restrict freedom of the press.

The federal government issued a 157-page report accusing Radio Tv Hong Kong, an outlet that has typically reported critically on officers, of missing transparency and objectivity.

The report got here hours after the federal government introduced that the pinnacle of the general public broadcaster would go away his put up six months early. His substitute is a civil servant from outdoors the broadcasting service with no journalism expertise.

For supporters of Hong Kong’s beleaguered pro-democracy motion, RTHK’s troubles signaled the destiny of unbiased journalism underneath an intensifying crackdown on dissent. Typically in comparison with the BBC, the broadcaster is government-funded however is promised editorial independence in its constitution.

Hong Kong’s communications authority final 12 months ordered the broadcaster to self-discipline staff on a political satire program after ruling {that a} skit had insulted the police drive. (This system itself was later suspended.) In August, RTHK eliminated a podcast that featured an interview with a well known activist after the authorities warned that it may violate the safety regulation.

Three months later, the police arrested Choy Yuk-ling, an award-winning RTHK producer who had made the documentary in regards to the mob assault.

One distinguished institution lawmaker has steered that RTHK be folded into the federal government’s public relations division. Professional-Beijing figures have filed hundreds of complaints in opposition to the station and staged protests outdoors its workplaces.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief govt, stated this month that the variety of substantiated complaints in opposition to RTHK in recent times was “unacceptable.”

“My place is that RTHK enormously must be improved,” she stated. “There are lots of issues in Hong Kong that should be set proper.”

The federal government’s report was the product of a seven-month evaluate, which officers introduced final spring in response to “huge public concern” in regards to the broadcaster’s efficiency. The evaluate was led by a senior civil servant, Jessie Ting Yip Yin-mei, who Mrs. Lam stated was often known as her “favourite.”

The report referred to as RTHK’s editorial processes “severely insufficient” and stated that there was no clear mechanism to make sure “correct dealing with of delicate/controversial points.” It additionally accused RTHK of providing “no assurance” that public complaints had been investigated impartially.

It criticized the broadcaster for not actively looking for recommendation from its government-appointed Board of Advisers. The board is led by figures with shut ties to Beijing.

The report stated that RTHK ought to preserve written information of how protection choices are made, domesticate a stronger relationship with the advisory board and make sure that the editor in chief performs a extra energetic function in shaping protection.

Some marvel how that extra energetic function will play out underneath the newly introduced head, Patrick Li. Whereas the departing editor in chief, Leung Ka-wing, had labored as a reporter and editor at a number of information organizations, Mr. Li, at present the deputy secretary for residence affairs, doesn’t have a journalistic background.

The federal government didn’t clarify Mr. Leung’s early departure however stated that his contract had been “resolved early by mutual consent.”

In a quick be aware to staff, Mr. Leung wrote that he was grateful for 5 and a half years main the station and was at peace regardless of some turbulent occasions, in accordance with a Fb put up by RTHK.

Edward Yau, the Secretary of the Commerce and Financial Growth Bureau, stated at a information convention on Friday that RTHK had been led by non-journalists earlier than. He stated the division, which oversees the broadcaster, had sought an inside successor however didn’t discover a appropriate candidate.

Mr. Yau added that the editor in chief wouldn’t be solely chargeable for steering programming, although he criticized the prevailing management for adopting a “extra passive function.”

The report’s findings had been framed as suggestions relatively than orders, and officers stated there was no set timeline for enacting them. RTHK stated in a press release that it might “rigorously examine and comply with up” on the report.

Mr. Yau emphasised that RTHK would preserve editorial independence. However, he added, “there’ll by no means be editorial autonomy with out duty, freedom with out restraint.”

Elsie Chen contributed analysis from Seoul, and Liu Yi from Beijing.

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