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Concern over Hong Kong newspaper's sudden decision to replace its chief editor

Facebook/Ming Pao Weekly

The Hong Kong Journalists Association is gravely concerned over Ming Pao management's replacement of its Chief Editor, Kevin Lau, by a Malaysian journalist.

A newspaper is not merely a private organization but is also a social instrument. Its chief editor, as the "soul" of a newspaper, can make everyday decisions which reflect its core values and determine what its readers can read and should know. The chief editor also plays a significant role in shaping readers' thoughts and values.

HKJA believes a newspaper management has absolute right to decide on personnel arrangements. However, we should be mindful that news production usually has a region-specific aspect. Ming Pao is a Hong Kong-based integrated newspaper with a long history. The decision to appoint a foreigner as the new chief editor of Ming Pao who may not have a sound grasp of public sentiments within Hong Kong may, in critical times as we are now going through, fail to comply with the best interests of its readers.

Ming Pao management rejected a replacement from within its own ranks even though there are many suitable candidates within the company who are thoroughly familiar with current local affairs. HKJA, therefore, has good reason to believe that the move is highly unusual.

We have been told by some staff members that Lau's replacement was related to Ming Pao's extensive coverage of the recent free TV licensing saga which, allegedly, caused dissatisfaction in the ranks of its most senior management.

If this is true, it would be tantamount to immense self censorship that must seriously undermine Ming Pao's credibility. We wish the management of Ming Pao can openly explain the whys and hows such a replacement decision was made.

Some Ming Pao staff are also extremely concerned that the move will pose further restrictions on reporting and raise doubts about the paper's editorial direction in the future, especially in regards to sensitive issues like political reform or the "Occupy Central" movement, etc. As a responsible media organization, HKJA believes the management of Ming Pao should give a pledge to the public that it will continue to uphold its vaunted impartial reporting, free of self-censorship.

HKJA has also noted that a number of Ming Pao staff are now initiating a signature campaign to express their concerns. HKJA urges Ming Pao management not to settle scores against those staff and would consider any such action as undermining freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Journalists Association
January 7, 2014

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