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IFJ fears erosion of editorial independence at Radio Television Hong Kong

UPDATE: IFJ urges investigation into political interference claims at Hong Kong's public broadcaster (IFJ, 21 March 2013)

(IFJ/IFEX) - 13 September 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Hong Kong Journalists' Association (HKJA) in voicing deep concerns about the appointment of a civil servant as director of broadcasting of the publicly-owned Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) on September 9.

Hong Kong's Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, which oversees public broadcasting, appointed Deputy Secretary for Labour and Welfare Roy Tang Yun-Kwong as director of broadcasting, despite his lack of experience in the media sector.

Tang, who has been a civil servant since 1987, was appointed after no candidate was found to be suitable among 26 applications for the role. His appointment drew immediate criticism from former RTHK director Franklin Wong, the broadcaster's staff union, academics and legislators.

RTHK Program Staff Union chairwoman Janet Mak Lai-Ching described Tang's appointment as a "dark day" for the public broadcaster.

"Tang has no knowledge of public broadcasting," Mak said. "His appointment is an indication of the government's infringement of RTHK's editorial independence."

The HKJA, an IFJ affiliate, condemned the appointment saying it would diminish RTHK's role as a public broadcaster and put it at risk of becoming a propaganda tool for the Hong Kong government.

RTHK staff members have fought a long campaign for RTHK to become a truly independent broadcaster, rather than its current structure as an independent government department. The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau ruled in 2009 against establishing RTHK as an independent entity.

According to a Sing Tao report, Tang was a classmate of Michael Wong Wai-Lun, the director of Hong Kong's Information Service Department.

"It is frustrating that this appointment comes so soon after the HKJA and Hong Kong News Executives' Association met Hong Kong Chief Secretary Henry Tang and Michael Wong on August 31 to express their concerns about the rights of media covering government activities," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"The appointment is a regressive step for press freedom and highlights serious reservations about the ability of the Government of Hong Kong to maintain a transparent and accountable system of governance for RTHK."

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
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