250,000 back independence for RTHK

Local | Erin Chan 2 Apr 2020

A petition with 250,000 signatures was yesterday handed to director of broadcasting Leung Ka-wing in support of RTHK program Headliner and freedom of expression.

Thirteen members of the advisory panel for RTHK programs, including lawmaker Charles Mok Lai-kwong, also met with Leung.

"Our members thought that the mechanism for protecting the public broadcaster's editorial independence is not enough," Mok said after the meeting, adding that the panel was concerned about "self-censorship" of RTHK content.

The panel members also made four requests of Leung - asking him to uphold independence of program content, the mission of a public broadcaster to produce news and current affairs programs, not settling accounts with staff members for the content they produce as well as establishing a mechanism that protects editorial independence.

Headliner, a satirical TV program, has been accused by the police of undermining its work after its February 14 and 28 episodes implied the force was stockpiling masks during the outbreak and inept in investigating suicides during the unrest.

A formal complaint about them was sent to the Communications Authority and two condemnation letters by Police Commissioner Chris Tang Ping-keung were sent to Leung over the previous two months.

In them, Tang said the program failed to be objective, never featuring protesters as the center of its satire.

Leung addressed the public row with Tang in an open letter on March 12, arguing that the program had a "definitive and unambiguous" character and served as an "effective outlet for grudges and resentment."

He went on to say that RTHK, which airs diverse programs ranging from news, information, education and sports 24/7, shares more or less the same goals with other governmental departments.

The program, one of the longest-running RTHK programs since it first aired in 1989, is known for its funny, relaxed discussion of current affairs.

It is also regarded as being pro-democracy and singles out government officials for criticism, resulting in criticism from some pro-establishment politicians.

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