Hong Kong’s largest television broadcaster has defended the neutrality of its news coverage on the extradition bill protests, lambasting protesters’ action against the station as unreasonable and an infringement of press freedom.
Mark Lee Po-on, chief executive officer of Television Broadcasts (TVB), wrote to all staff on Monday that the company “resolutely opposed” intimidation against its journalists and the online call for boycotting, which he saw as attempts to influence its reporting.
“It was predictable that TVB was caught in the recent protests and conflicts … but the series of events was beyond reason, and severely intervenes with press freedom,” Lee wrote an internal memo. “These measures cannot deter TVB from continuing to provide diverse and live news broadcasting.”
Lee also pledged that the company would stand by its staff from all divisions and asked them to “stand fast and defend press freedom”.
“TVB has always respected citizens’ opinion. The news division has upheld the principles of neutrality, fairness and unbiased reporting to reflect calls from all walks of life,” he said.
TVB, established in 1967, became the latest target of protesters after posts on online forum accused the station of reporting in favour of the government and pro-establishment camp during clashes and marches against the controversial extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to mainland China, among other jurisdictions.
Since June, the Communications Authority has received more than 12,000 complaints against TVB’s news reports.
The station has also lost some advertisers – including global brands, such as Japanese sports drink Pocari Sweat – after protesters made online calls to boycott the broadcaster. The protesters flooded the Facebook pages of various brands and forced them to pull advertisements from TVB’s platform, the latest targets being mooncake manufacturers.
TVB journalists also faced disruption while reporting news from the protest venues, with some demonstrators holding placards asking them to stop shooting footage.
During the anti-extradition bill rally in Sha Tin on Sunday, protesters attacked two journalists from the station, smashed the windscreens of two TVB vans and also stopped one of the vehicles from leaving the site.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association condemned the assault on TVB reporters on Sunday, while the Hong Kong News Executives’ Association also issued a condemnation statement on Monday criticising all acts of violence against journalists.
“Any violent behaviour against journalists is a serious threat to freedom of the press and expression,” the association said, urging people to respect their work.
Late last month, TVB announced an early pay rise to boost the morale of reporters. This included a flat 10 per cent pay rise for any reporter with less than five years’ experience and also for veterans based on their performance. However, is it yet to be implemented.
This article Hong Kong’s largest television broadcaster TVB defends neutrality of news coverage, lambasts extradition bill protesters for attacking journalists first appeared on South China Morning Post