Hong Kong’s public broadcaster union and journalist association have filed a legal challenge after the government issued a warning against a political satire programme.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and RTHK Programme Staff Union jointly filed a judicial review of the Communications Authority’s warning against the RTHK show Headliner. On May 19, following public complaints, the authority maintained that an episode of the popular programme denigrated and insulted the police force.

RTHK Radio Television Hong Kong Office

In a joint statement released by the HKJA and the staff union, they wrote that they thought the ruling had restricted free speech: “Not only has the Communications Authority ruling affected RTHK’s programme production, but it also greatly reduces the room for Hong Kong media to produce satire programmes.”

Headliner has been through many years and political storms with Hongkongers, using sarcasm and mockery. We wish to safeguard the room for political satire through the judicial review and overturn the case for freedom of speech. “

They added in the statement that the association will accept unconditional donations and the union will raise funds among its staff to jointly bear the cost involved in the legal action.

RTHK Headliner
RTHK’s Headliner has received complaints after airing a controversial episode. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

After receiving complaints about content that parodied the police public relations programme, RTHK axed production of Headliner. The show had a 31 year history and the last episode was aired in June.

Apple Daily later recreated a similar political satire programme which featured Wong He – the guest host in the controversial episode – and one of its regular hosts Tsang Chi-ho.

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.