RTHK broadcasters outside of the news department were ordered not to discuss the University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) removal of a Tiananmen Massacre statue on Thursday.
Two sources familiar with the matter told HKFP that discussion of HKU’s move was banned, whilst news reports on the RTHK website omitted all mention of the 1989 June 4 crackdown in Beijing.
When asked about the ban, RTHK told HKFP in a statement that it “will not comment on [its] internal editorial matters.”
Two RTHK stories about the removal of Tiananmen Massacre sculptures this week failed to mention what they were dedicated to. Three previous stories also omitted all mention of the military crackdown that saw hundreds, perhaps thousands, killed following the student demonstrations in Beijing.
It comes three months after new “editorial guidelines” specified that the government-funded broadcaster must “uphold the constitution.”
HKU removed the Pillar of Shame monument in the early hours of Thursday morning whilst students were on break. It cited safety issues and legal advice in a statement, and also referenced the Crimes Ordinance “under the Hong Kong colonial government.” The incident has sparked international criticism.
Press freedom concerns
The incident is the latest controversy since a new Director of Broadcasting with no previous media experience took the helm in March. Since then, RTHK has scrubbed its online archives, purged and restricted its Twitter account, launched a chat show hosted by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and issued directives to staff to use Beijing-approved wording.
Lam has also announced a partnership between the broadcaster and Chinese state media CCTV. The leader said that the mainland-produced shows are aimed at instilling a “stronger sense of patriotism” among viewers.
The changes come amid growing concern over the state of press freedom under the Beijing-imposed national security law as authorities vow to roll out “fake news” legislation. The city’s press group warned that press freedoms are “in tatters” after a crackdown on the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper.
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