Local broadcaster RTHK has deleted all of its English-language Twitter archive and is preventing readers from “replying” to its tweets citing resource constraints.
“Resource constraints prevent us from properly engaging with our subscribers or refute in a timely manner any misinformation that might be contained within comments,” a tweet on Wednesday said.
The social media platform has a newly-introduced function that can limit who is able to reply to those mentioned in the tweet, or those which a user already follows. It is unclear if the broadcaster is aware that users may still screenshot their tweets or use the “quote” function to comment on them.
In response to a list of questions from HKFP, RTHK refused to comment: “RTHK’s social media policy is the internal matters (sic) of RTHK. RTHK has nothing further to supplement.”
Twitter users reacted with frustration to the embattled broadcaster’s move using the “quote” function: “RTHK have never engaged with their Twitter subscribers,” one user said. “This is a dark day. RTHK have burned their previous tweets… 1000s of important news stories gone. This is so bad,” another wrote.
Meanwhile, another Twitter user set up an unofficial bot-powered Twitter feed of RTHK articles with replies enabled.
RTHK’s English-language Twitter administrator had built a fanbase in recent months for their biting yet factual framing of local and international affairs.
RTHK has undergone a series of editorial shake-ups since the arrival of the new Director of Broadcasting Patrick Li in March. At least ten episodes of various shows have been censored before they were broadcast, while at least five top executives have resigned or took early retirement amid a staff exodus.
The broadcaster has faced a barrage of criticism from pro-Beijing figures and groups for “biased reporting” against the government and police, and was ordered by the authorities in February to tackle “deficiencies” in editorial management. In March, it sought to withdraw its entries from journalism awards.
In May, RTHK deleted most of its video archive from the internet.
In its annual report last month, the Hong Kong Journalists Association said press freedoms in Hong Kong were “in tatters.”
Additional reporting: Candice Chau.