Portuguese reporters at Macau’s largest TV and radio broadcaster have been given new guidelines requiring them to support the principle of “patriots ruling Hong Kong,” and staff have been told not to disclose information or express opinions contrary to the policies of China and Macau’s government.

The Portuguese media outlet in the small casino city next to Hong Kong have, for years, been allowed relative independence and freedom from censorship compared to their Chinese counterparts. But the new rules mean it may soon be brought to heel.

Macau TV broadcaster TDM
Macau broadcaster TDM. Photo: HKFP Remix.

Television and radio reporters working in the Portuguese section of Macau’s largest broadcaster Teledifusão de Macau (TDM) were on Wednesday given a list of nine bullet points laying out new editorial directions and restrictions for reporters, two people with knowledge of the matter confirmed to HKFP.

TDM reporters are to “[support] the fundamental principle that Hong Kong SAR is governed by patriots,” “support measures adopted by the Macau SAR, in accordance with the law” and withhold “information or opinion contrary to the policies of the Central Government of the [People’s Republic of China] and support measures adopted by the Macau SAR,” according to the new guidelines reviewed by HKFP.

New rules announced by TDM (with English translation by HKFP) – click to view.

1 – TDM disseminates and promotes patriotism, respect and love for the motherland and the Macau SAR.
1 – A TDM divulga e promove o patriotismo, o respeito e o amor à pátria e à RAEM. 

2 – TDM is an information dissemination body of the Central Government of the PRC and the Macau SAR.
2 – A TDM é um órgão de divulgação da informação do Governo Central da RPC e da RAEM. 

3 – TDM disseminates Macau SAR policies expressed in the [Governmental Lines of Action] and respective activities.
3 – A TDM divulga as políticas da RAEM expressas na LAG e respectivas actividades. 

4 – TDM staff do not disclose information or opinion contrary to the policies of the Central Government of the PRC and support measures adopted by the Macau SAR, in accordance with the law.
4 – O pessoal da TDM não divulga informação ou opiniões contrárias às políticas do Governo Central da RPC e apoia as medidas adoptadas pela RAEM, conforme a lei. 

5 – TDM supports the fundamental principle that Hong Kong SAR is governed by patriots.
5 –  A TDM apoia o princípio fundamental de que a RAEHK é governada por patriotas. 

6 – TDM disseminates the principle of “One Centre, One Platform, and One Base” [referring to Macau’s position in the Greater Bay Area according to China].
6 – A TDM divulga o princípio um centro, uma plataforma, uma base.

7 – TDM disseminates the significance of the link between Chinese and Western cultures.
7 – A TDM divulga o significado da ligação entre as culturas chinesa e ocidentais. 

8 – TDM should deepen the dissemination and promotion of China’s relations with all Portuguese-speaking countries.
8 – A TDM deve aprofundar a divulgação e promoção das relações da China com todos os países de lingua portuguesa. 

9 – TDM supports the spirit of mutual support of solidarity between the various communities and religions in Macau.
9 – A TDM apoia o espírito de apoio mútuo de solidariedade entre as diversas comunidades e religiões em Macau.

In order to achieve these objectives, the Executive Committee will make necessary adjustments in terms of its structure, personnel and programming.
Para a concretização destes objectivos, a Comissão Executiva fará os ajustamentos necessários ao nível da sua estrutura, pessoal e programação.

The guidelines — set by TDM‘s executive committee — were relayed to staffers verbally by Director of Information and Portuguese Programs João Francisco Pinto and Deputy Director Gilberto Lopes during a meeting, Macau news outlet Jornal Tribuna de Macau reported. The pairs’ contracts have recently been renewed for another six months instead of the usual one-year period.

TDM is Macau’s largest radio and television broadcaster, with the local government its biggest shareholder. The media outlet offers five digital TV channels available for free, two radio stations that broadcast in Chinese and Portuguese, and one satellite TV station.

The nine points also state that “TDM is an information dissemination body of the Central Government of the PRC and the Macau SAR” and that the broadcaster would “promote patriotism, respect and love the motherland and the Macau SAR.” Non-compliance would lead to termination of employment, Portuguese news outlet RTP reported.

In a statement published to their website on Friday, TDM said it “has not changed its current news editing policy.”

“As an organisation that provides public broadcasting services, we will continue to fulfil the social responsibility of the media and adhere to the principle of patriotism and love for Macau. Regarding online speculation and rumours, TDM reserves the right to pursue relevant responsibilities in accordance with the law,” the statement read.

Pinto did not respond to HKFP‘s requests for comment.

An end to relative freedom

The Chinese-language press in the former Portuguese colony which returned to China in 1999 has faced informal censorship for years, but the Portuguese-language press is “another world,” said a reporter working at a Chinese news outlet in the city. He has declined to give his name for fear of retribution.

Macau tourism. Tourist taking a photo.
Photo: Tauno Tõhk via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

“I’m surprised [by TDM‘s new rules], because it wasn’t like this before,” he told HKFP.

Chinese broadcasters, for example, would run a brief segment about an informal June 4th event, without specifying that it was to commemorate the Tiananmen Massacre in Beijing in 1989. On the contrary, he said, Portuguese and English outlets would air a news segment several minutes long about the same event.

To consume uncensored news, readers rely on items translated from the city’s Portuguese press into Chinese and shared on social media, the reporter said.

“We would joke that the China Liaison Office can’t read Portuguese,” he said, thus allowing these news outlets to be spared from censorship — until now.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.