HONG KONG – Employees of Hong Kong’s beleaguered public broadcaster were ordered on Wednesday to support national security and the interests of the Chinese and Hong Kong governments, the broadcaster reported, a move sure to spark fears over press freedom in the city .
The only independent, publicly funded media outlet on Chinese soil, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) has been broadcasting since 1928 and is sometimes compared to the British Broadcasting Corporation. Its charter guarantees its editorial independence.
The broadcaster angered the Hong Kong government, police and several pro-Beijing establishments in the city with its coverage of anti-government protests that rocked the city in 2019.
RTHK said a detailed document was issued to employees setting out its editorial responsibilities, policies and procedures. It follows criticism in a government review in February.
The broadcaster reported the document released by management, emphasizing that RTHK programs should not incite or deepen hatred, discrimination or hostility towards the Beijing or Hong Kong governments.
It states that “under no circumstances should our programs provide a platform to encourage, incite, promote, glorify, support or sympathize with any act or activity endangering national security or Otherwise no material should be included which is prejudicial to the interests of national security.”
Employees not complying risk disciplinary action.
“The document seeks to help RTHK employees and its service providers gain a complete and comprehensive understanding of RTHK’s editorial policies and guiding principles,” RTHK said in an emailed response to Reuters.
China last year imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong that critics say has been used to quell dissent in the city, charges officials in Beijing and Hong Kong rejected.
Since that law came into force, authorities have arrested and imprisoned activists, confiscated the property of democracy campaigners, detained newspaper editors, banned books and sloganeering, and even films. censored.
‘One nation, two systems’
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” agreement, which promised it wide freedoms unavailable on the Communist Party-ruled mainland.
The protests that rocked the city in 2019 were fueled by perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip on freedoms that authorities have denied.
The role of the RTHK has come under scrutiny as the government enforces its national security law.
A press release on RTHK’s website said the document will “enable RTHK to better fulfill its public objectives and mission as a public service broadcaster and its responsibilities as a government department.”
“RTHK is editorially independent under the charter. This point is confirmed in the document. However, editorial autonomy also includes responsibility,” the press release said.
RTHK quoted Kitty Choi, an advisor to the broadcasting director, as saying that employees may continue to interview people who criticize the government.
The document also reminds employees to avoid contact with foreign governments or political organizations to prevent conflicts with their official duties.
They should also be careful in their use of social media.
Some employees expressed confusion and concern to Reuters. “I am not sure if I will be able to create another program that is not directly in line with the government’s stand,” said a staff member.
The memo follows several recent steps by the government to overhaul the broadcaster, with a review in February finding deficiencies in its editorial management and lack of transparency in handling complaints.
A senior civil servant, Patrick Lee, was appointed as director of broadcasts in March.
by Greg Torode
This News Originally From – The Epoch Times