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

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong authorities on Friday referred to as for the 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 usually 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 submit 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 below an intensifying crackdown on dissent. Usually 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 workers on a political satire program after ruling skit had insulted the police pressure. (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 might 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 recommended that RTHK be folded into the federal government’s public relations division. Professional-Beijing figures have filed 1000’s of complaints towards the station and staged protests outdoors its workplaces.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief government, mentioned this month that the variety of substantiated complaints towards RTHK lately was “unacceptable.”

“My place is that RTHK significantly must be improved,” she mentioned. “There are various issues in Hong Kong that should be set proper.”

The authorities’s report was the product of a seven-month overview, which officers introduced final spring in response to “vast public concern” in regards to the broadcaster’s efficiency. The overview was led by a senior civil servant, Jessie Ting Yip Yin-mei, whom Mrs. Lam mentioned was generally known as her “favourite.”

The report referred to as RTHK’s editorial processes “severely insufficient” and mentioned 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 in search of recommendation from its government-appointed Board of Advisers. The board is led by figures with shut ties to Beijing.

The report mentioned that RTHK ought to hold written data of how protection selections are made, domesticate a stronger relationship with the advisory board and be certain that the editor in chief performs a extra lively function in shaping protection.

Some surprise how that extra lively function will play out below 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, presently the deputy secretary for residence affairs, doesn’t have a journalistic background.

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

In a short observe to workers, 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 line with a Fb submit by RTHK.

Edward Yau, the Secretary of the Commerce and Financial Improvement Bureau, mentioned at a information convention on Friday that RTHK had been led by non-journalists earlier than. He mentioned 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 accountable for steering programming, although he criticized the present management for adopting a “extra passive function.”

The report’s findings had been framed as suggestions slightly than orders, and officers mentioned there was no set timeline for enacting them. RTHK mentioned in a assertion that it could “fastidiously examine and observe 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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