News

June 30, 2020

Hong Kong government must end its attack on public media independence

PHOTO: RTHK
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Hong Kong government to end its attack on the editorial independence of public broadcasting group RTHK, which is essential to ensuring media plurality in a landscape of dwindling press freedom.

On June 10th, the Chairman of the Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) Board of Advisors, which is appointed by the Hong Kong government, publicly demanded the channel to broadcast a propaganda series he insisted would help Hong Kongers to form a “correct understanding” of the widely criticized National Security Law. That very same afternoon, the decision to broadcast the show was confirmed by an RTHK spokesperson, in a blow to the public group’s strong reputation of independence, and likely a result of strong political pressures. The Board of Advisors has already sparked controversy through its announcement on May 21st for the formation of a "working group" that would monitor the governance and editorial principles of RTHK, to which neither management nor staff representatives were invited to join.


"The existence of an independent public audiovisual media network is essential to ensure Hong Kong residents are being provided with unbiased information, particularly as press freedom is rapidly deteriorating under Beijing’s political and economic pressure," says Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia bureau head. "Chief Executive Carrie Lam would do better ensuring the restoration of press freedom enshrined in Article 27 of the Basic Law in Hong Kong, rather than meddling in the independent editorial choices of RTHK." 


According to a survey carried out by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, RTHK remains the most trustworthy media in the eyes of Hong Kongers. Recently, the group came under pressure from the authorities after its broadcast of the satirical show Headliner which poked fun at the police and has since been taken off-air, and in its broadcast of an embarrassing interview in its show The Pulse, in which a representative of the World Health Organization fumbles to answer questions from a journalist on the topic of Taiwan’s exclusion from global health talks.


The Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong has fallen from 18th place in 2002, to 80th place in this year’s RSF Press Freedom Index. The People's Republic of China stagnates at the bottom of the index in 177th place out of a total of 180 countries.