RTHK will “follow up” with Twitter, after the social media platform added a “state-affiliated media” label to the outlet’s official account, the broadcaster has told HKFP.

rthk state media
RTHK’s “state-affiliated media” label, as of Monday, April 17. Photo: Twitter screenshot.

The tech platform – owned by billionaire Elon Musk – describes state-affiliated outlets as those where “the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.”

Twitter previously limited the reach and impact of state media accounts, such as those from China and Russia. However, under Musk, US media reported that the rules were recently relaxed.

In a statement on Tuesday, the broadcaster said it “is both a government department and the only public service broadcaster in Hong Kong. The Charter of RTHK specifies the editorial independence of RTHK.”

It said its purpose was to promote education and learning, sustain citizenship and civil society, “stimulate creativity and excellence to enrich the multi-cultural life of Hong Kong people,” as well as “provide an open platform for the free exchange of views without fear or favour.”

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File photo: ctrl.blog via CC2.0.

RTHK’s English-language Twitter account shared only two stories on Monday, and none over the weekend. In 2021, it deleted all of its tweets and disabled comments over “resource constraints.”

Editorial revamp

The broadcaster has undergone a major editorial revamp following the 2019 extradition bill protests and unrest. The government ordered a review of its administration following pressure from the pro-Beijing camp, which alleged it was biased against the authorities.

Several programmes, including the city’s oldest satirical show Headliner and English-language current affairs programme The Pulse, were taken off air, as veteran hosts disappeared from the airwaves. Journalist Nabela Qoser – known for her tough questioning of officials – was among those whose employment was axed, whilst two radio show hosts were fired.

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RTHK. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

RTHK also deleted older content from its website and refused to accept awards won by a documentary about the 2019 Yuen Long mob attacks. A producer of the documentary, Bao Choy, was convicted of making false statements to obtain vehicle licence records for the programme, and fined HK$6,000.

In recent years, it launched a chat show hosted by then-chief executive Carrie Lam, issued directives for staff to use Beijing-approved wording, and announced a partnership with Chinese state media outlet CCTV amid an exodus of senior editorial staff.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.