Hong Kong government broadcaster urged to support national security mission

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Logos of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) are seen outside their building in Hong Kong, China on June 5, 2020. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu

HONG KONG, Sept.29 (Reuters) – Staff at the beleaguered Hong Kong public broadcaster were ordered on Wednesday to support national security and the interests of the Chinese and Hong Kong governments, the broadcaster reported, in a move that will not fail. not to stir up fears about press freedom in the city.

The only independent and publicly funded media 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 it editorial independence.

The broadcaster angered the Hong Kong government, police and many members of the city’s pro-Beijing establishment with its coverage of the anti-government protests that rocked the city for much of 2019.

RTHK said a detailed document has been provided to staff outlining their editorial responsibilities, policies and procedures. This follows criticism of a government review in February.

The broadcaster reported that the document, released by management, stressed that RTHK’s programs must not provoke or deepen hatred, discrimination or hostility towards the governments of Beijing or Hong Kong.

It states that “under no circumstances should our programs provide a platform to encourage, incite, promote, glorify, endorse or sympathize with any act or activity endangering national security or in any way containing content. contrary to the interests of national security ”.

Staff who did not comply risked disciplinary action.

RTHK did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

China last year imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong that critics say has been used to crush dissent in the city, a charge rejected by authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong.

Since this law came into force, authorities have arrested and jailed activists, seized the assets of democracy activists, detained newspaper editors, banned books and protest slogans, and also censored films.

“ONE COUNTRY, TWO SYSTEMS”

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” agreement that promised vast freedoms not available on the mainland led by the Communist Party.

The protests that rocked the city in 2019 were fueled by the perception that Beijing was tightening its grip on these freedoms, which authorities have denied.

The role of the RTHK comes under scrutiny as the government implements its National Security Act.

The document “would enable the RTHK to better fulfill its public objectives and mission as a public service broadcaster, as well as its responsibilities as a government department,” said a press release on the RTHK website.

“RTHK is editorially independent under the Charter. This point is reaffirmed in the document. However, editorial autonomy also comes with a responsibility,” the press release said.

The RTHK quoted Kitty Choi, an advisor to the broadcasting director, as saying that staff may continue to interview people who criticize the government.

The document also reminds staff to avoid contact with foreign governments or political organizations to avoid any conflict with their official duties.

They should also be careful in their use of social media.

Some staff members expressed confusion and concern to Reuters. “I am not sure I can produce other programs that are not directly in line with the government’s position,” said a staff member.

The memo follows several recent government moves to overhaul the broadcaster, with a review in February revealing flaws in its editorial management and a lack of transparency in handling complaints.

A senior official, Patrick Li, was appointed director of broadcasting in March.

Additional reporting by Jessie Pang; Editing by Alex Richardson

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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