May 2, 2007
Chief Executive Donald Tsang
5/F Main Wing
Central Government Offices
Lower Albert Road
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Via facsimile: +852 2509 9637
The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the future role and editorial integrity of government broadcasting in Hong Kong. Recommendations made in the Report on Review of Public Service Broadcasting in Hong Kong, written by a seven-person committee and made public on March 28, suggest that Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) might be replaced or its role diminished as Hong Kong considers establishing a public service broadcaster.
We ask your administration, as it considers new approaches to public broadcasting, to ensure that the territory be left with the independent editorial voice that RTHK has provided, a voice that has helped establish the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as a relative “safe haven” for journalistic freedom in Asia, despite changes in Hong Kong’s governance.
The report, which took 14 months to prepare, suggests establishing a public service broadcaster to meet Hong Kong’s future civic broadcasting needs. The committee said that it does not believe RTHK should fill that role, citing labor problems that purportedly could occur because the station might employ both civil service and contract workers. The report likens the station’s potential employment issue to a recent rail merger, but it is questionable why such a parallel should be applied.
Such reasoning leaves us concerned that RTHK, which has served Hong Kong with fair and professional reporting for 79 years, could eventually disappear and be replaced by a broadcaster not only government supported but government controlled. The public, in turn, could see an important public guardian replaced by a government mouthpiece.
As you and your administration move toward a decision on the role of government broadcasting, we call on you to heed the concerns of Hong Kong journalists and citizens during the public consultation period later this year. It seems to us unwise to discard the expertise accumulated by RTHK over the years, and we ask you to carefully weigh the view that RTHK be reconfigured to serve as Hong Kong’s independent public service broadcaster. Whatever the future holds, the SAR’s broadcaster should be managed free of government dominance and funded in such a way to maintain and expand the standards of journalistic excellence that RTHK has established.
CPJ respects Hong Kong’s long history of relative press freedom, and we agree with those who say that a free media has been a necessary component in the SAR’s continued economic success. Just as your government has worked to maintain an open economy, it must do the same to ensure the free flow of news and ideas.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We await your positive response.