Hong Kong and Macau public broadcaster independence threatened by management censorship

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the editorial interference of Hong Kong and Macau’s public broadcaster management and urges the governments of the two special administrative regions to cease their attacks against press freedom.

Over the past weeks, the independence of public broadcasters Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) and Teledifusão de Macau (TDM) has been threatened by acts of censorship imposed by their own senior management. On 10th March, TDM’s executive committee issued a set of nine guidelines to reporters ordering them not to criticise the authorities, whilst on 11th March the new Director of Broadcasting of RTHK, Patrick Li, axed a political panel discussion less than an hour before it was scheduled to go on air.

“These acts of editorial interference violate the right of Hong Kong and Macau residents to access independent information as enshrined in their respective Basic Laws”, says Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia Bureau Head, who calls on Macau Chief Executive Ho lat Seng and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to “enforce freedom of the press and resist the Beijing regime’s demands to censor the media.”

During a meeting on 10th March, TDM’s Director of Information João Francisco Pinto and Deputy Director Gilberto Lopes ordered reporters “not to disclose information or express opinions contrary to the policies of China and Macau’s government” and gave a new set of guidelines requiring them to support the principle of “patriots ruling Hong Kong” when referring to the Hong Kong authorities, with the threat of dismissal if these orders were not adhered to. 

On 11th March, the RTHK chief Patrick Li, a former bureaucrat with no prior media experience, axed a political panel discussion, the second last minute cancellation since the change of leadership at RTHK at the beginning of March. Over the past year, RTHK has been the target of repeated acts of government harassment which has threatened its independence.

Hong Kong, once a bastion of press freedom, has plummeted from 18th place in 2002 to 80th place in 2020 in the RSF World Press Freedom Index. The People's Republic of China, for its part, remains at 177th out of 180.

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Updated on 25.03.2021