Facebook users have responded with anger at broadcaster TVB’s lack of apology over their reporters’ conduct at the scene of the double-decker bus crash in Tai Po on Saturday.

19 people were killed and more than 60 were injured in Hong Kong’s worst road accident in years.

In a Now TV live video of rescue operations at the scene, a police officer can be seen asking reporters to move further away as firefighters were preparing to jack up the vehicle to search for survivors.

tvb tai po bus crash
Photo: Screenshot/NowTV.

A female reporter can be heard offscreen asking the officer for more time to conduct their live report: “Our signal is on for broadcast, can you give us three and a half minutes?”

He said he would talk with firefighters, but added: “Press freedom is important, but there are lives at stake.”

According to NowTV’s video, after about a minute, the officer said reporters must leave as firefighters were waiting for them to move before they could commence work. The reporter agreed to move to a different spot, but another male reporter could be heard asking for “half a minute” later on. The TVB reporter could still be seen on-screen about two minutes later.

‘Race against time’

As outrage erupted online, TVB posted a statement on its Facebook page, saying: “TVB’s reporters are like all front line reporters, when covering important incidents they will race against time, but they will absolutely stick to their professional principles and ethics, and would never impede rescue operations for the sake of reporting.”

The statement summarised the incident, saying that their female reporter agreed to move about a minute later.

“In the end, firefighters only lifted the vehicle several hours later, so our reporters absolutely did not impede their rescue efforts at any time.”

The top comment, which received over 700 likes, said that the broadcaster’s response was infuriating.

“Frontline reporters may make errors because they care a lot about their work, but if they can sincerely acknowledge their errors and guarantee that it won’t happen again, they would receive the understanding of the public. This statement completely lacks remorse and self-examination, and also thinks it is completely right – it deserves condemnation from all citizens.”

Another commenter said: “The firefighters were only lifting up the vehicle a little to see if there is anyone trapped. They were putting it upright several hours later. It’s two completely different matters.”

Another said: “How can you even ask that – the female reporter is being so disrespectful to the injured people inside and outside the bus and all of the rescuers onsite. If your family members were inside waiting to be rescued, would you still ask for three and a half minutes for your broadcast?”

TVB’s post has received over 800 comments and over 4,000 angry emoji.

The government said it will set up an independent commission to conduct an inquiry over the bus crash.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.