The RTHK Programme Staff Union said on Monday management has linked a move to reopen an investigation into complaints against one of its reporters and to extend her probation by four months to a recent memo issued by the Civil Service Bureau reminding bosses to consider an employee's temperament, personal characteristics and conduct in job appraisals.
The union and RTHK management discussed the case of Nabela Qoser in a meeting on Monday afternoon, hours after the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau – which oversees the public broadcaster – denied playing a role in the controversy.
The union pointed out that no problems were raised about Qoser's temperament or conduct in her previous appraisals over the past three years.
"To say that these reports have not reflected or have not taken into serious condition Nabela's temperament, personal characteristics and conduct is unreasonable and unbelievable," the union's chairwoman Gladys Chiu said. "So, except for political reasons, we cannot figure out additional reasons that are work-related that justify such arrangement."
The union also claimed management was under pressure to act against Qoser. It's demanding that the broadcaster withdraw its decision to extend her probationary period.
Earlier, the new chairman of RTHK's board of advisers, Lam Tai-fai, refused to be drawn into the controversy, saying RTHK’s personnel arrangements are not within the scope of the board of advisers.
He also said personnel changes are normal in any organisation.
Government critics and media groups, however, see it as an attempt by the administration to further rein in RTHK, undermining freedom of speech.
In a statement, the Hong Kong Journalists Association warned that the "unusual" decision to extend the probationary period of a reporter would have a chilling effect.
It pointed out tough questions raised by reporters are aimed at getting to the truth, and spoke out against attempts to silence them.