The new owner of Hong Kong’s pioneering tabloid Next Magazine has said that employees who are biased against him cannot remain at the publication.
The pro-democracy Next Media group announced the HK$500 million sale of Next Magazine, known for its investigative exposés, to businessman Kenny Wee on Monday. Next Media’s labour union expressed fears that the magazine’s outspoken style would be curtailed following the sale.
New owner Wee sold off his free newspaper Metro Daily earlier this month in anticipation of the Next Magazine acquisition. On Monday, he told reporters from Next Magazine and sister newspaper Apple Daily that he would not interfere with editorial independence.
“Take a look at Metro Daily over the past four years,” he said. “It’s always been green [the colour of the newspaper’s theme], and has not turned red [succumbed to Communist influence].”
However, Wee added that the magazine’s employees must not view him through “coloured lenses” and compare him with Jimmy Lai, the pro-democracy owner of Next Media.
“If you choose someone, they’ll also choose you,” said Wee. “Some people might not want to go over to the new owner. Some people might not listen to me after discussions – then I would have no choice, I have to ask them to leave.”
“If you are a successful person, if you are a tolerant person with a vision, or if you’re an experienced journalist, then you should not look at anyone through coloured lenses, including your new boss or your new colleagues.”
“If you’re like that, then you have no business staying at Next Magazine.”
Interviewed again by Apple Daily on Monday evening, Wee added that journalists may have to be involved in creating advertising content in order to sustain the magazine’s finances.
“There has to be some content marketing,” he said. “We can’t sell news, but lifestyle, fashion, beauty, finance – there are so many financial firms and there are many ways in which we can cooperate.”
Several Next Media executives said on Monday that financial difficulties – especially the termination of advertising contracts with Next Media publications by mainland Chinese or pro-Beijing companies – led to the decision to sell off Next Magazine.
Wee rejected suggestions that he would eventually purchase the group’s flagship newspaper Apple Daily, citing a lack of financial capability.
Next Media told HKFP it could not comment on Wee’s statements, citing securities regulations and ongoing due diligence procedures.