The chairwoman of the RTHK Programme Staff Union Gladys Chiu has slammed the public broadcaster’s decision to re-open an investigation into journalist Nabela Qoser, calling the decision “extremely unfair.”
Chiu’s comments were made following a meeting on Monday during which a management panel addressed issues raised by RTHK members of staff concerning Qoser’s employment.
The meeting was attended by over 150 employees. The panel included RTHK‘s Director of Broadcaster Leung Ka-wing, Deputy Director Eugene Fung Kin-yip, and Department Secretary Jessica Cheng Mee-Khan.
Qoser, an RTHK assistant programme officer, was told late last month that her three-year probation period will be extended for 120 days. Meanwhile, an investigation into complaints made against her by members of the public from July to November of last year will be re-opened.
Fung said the decision to re-open the investigation was based on the belief that there were procedural mistakes made while handling her case, according to Chiu. Fung added the situation was “unique.”
The union chairwoman, however, raised concerns with the decision: “Logically, it is a little bit problematic. If [Fung] believes there exists a problem with the procedure, it shouldn’t hinder the proper promotion or proper confirmation of a [member of] staff’s employment.”
“We believe that it should be vice-versa, that when you find a problem with the procedure, you halt the whole procedure,” Chiu said, adding the situation was to Qoser’s disadvantage and “extremely unfair.”
Chiu said employees also objected to the management’s use of the phrase “innocent before proven guilty” in relation to Qoser’s case, as it implied wrongdoing on Qoser’s part. The chairwoman said the description was “very inappropriate.”
“[The phrase] puts Qoser in a position of an offender, which is not what she did,” she said, adding that Qoser was merely asking questions of public concern and such wording amounted to “destroying her credibility and professionalism as a journalist.”
The management panel heeded the objections raised, withdrew their statement and issued an apology to Qoser, Chiu told reporters after the meeting.
Chiu said the case should not be mired in political considerations: “We hope that after this meeting, the management could do justice to the professionalism of Nabela and not let outside factors… such as political factors, hinder her promotion or confirmation [as] a civil servant.”
Qoser came into the spotlight during the city’s anti-extradition bill protests last year for her fierce line of questioning. She urged Chief Executive Carrie Lam to “speak like a human” during a press conference after the July 21 Yuen Long mob attack last year.
Her probation extension has raised concerns from rights groups over the “erosion” of press freedom in the city.