The RTHK Programme Staff Union and the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association have criticised a decision by the city’s public broadcaster not to broadcast a speech set to be given by a pro-independence party leader next week.
Hong Kong National Party leader Andy Chan Ho-tin is expected to give a speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) on Tuesday, despite attempts by the government to ban his organisation for advocating Hong Kong independence.
RTHK’s Director of Broadcasting, Leung Ka-wing, was quoted as saying in an internal editorial meeting that “RTHK should not be a platform to advocate Hong Kong independence”. While he did not forbid other forms of coverage, Leung mentioned that recordings will be subject to editing.
In a statement, the RTHK Programme Staff Union expressed concern over the erosion of press freedom in Hong Kong.
The union argued that the “journalistic value of the event is self-evident”, as Chan’s speech at the FCC will receive wide coverage from local and international media.
According to the union, even though Leung has the right to make the final decision, the RTHK Charter states that “As a public news broadcaster, RTHK should provide an open platform facilitating the exchange of ideas without fear or bias”.
Another statement made by the journalists’ association echoed the sentiment, saying that it “deeply regrets the decision”. It suggested that “political considerations have trumped the judgment of professional journalism”.
The statement explains that it is standard practice for media to cover events that are interesting and relevant to the public, so a high-level decision to ban the broadcast might be indicative of pressure from the government.
The association also urged the government to respond to the situation, reiterating that the government “should not interfere with the autonomy of RTHK”.