More than two dozen journalists spared a mass layoff at i-Cable's news department resigned in protest on Tuesday, with the channel's entire China desk quitting shortly after the broadcaster's move was announced.
Later, it emerged that at least five senior assignment editors also quit, along with 11 reporters from the Hong Kong team. i-Cable staff released footage of the reporters filing into an office to deliver their resignation letters to senior manager Hui Fong-fai.
In a statement, they said they were resigning in protest of the management's "destruction" of the news department, saying the contributions of the laid-off staff had been ignored. They added that they were "infuriated" that the sackings came without any consultations with department heads, and that this was "extremely disrespectful."
Earlier in the day, the head of the China team, veteran journalist Szeto Yuen, had told reporters waiting outside the station’s headquarters that he was among those submitting resignation letters.
Without elaborating, he said he felt “unhappy” about what happened, adding that the reason for his departure was “very obvious”.
The high-level resignations came hot on the heels of the broadcaster’s decision to sack around 40 staff from the news department, including reporters, camera operators, editors and production workers.
A reporter from the China desk as well as an entire team of journalists on the award-winning investigative segment, News Lancet, were reportedly among those fired.
Dozens of angry staff were seen surrounding the offices of the newsroom management on Tuesday morning, demanding an explanation for the terminations.
Videos circulating online showed employees questioning the criteria that had been adopted to identify staff for sackings, saying many of them were extremely experienced, professional and efficient.
They also demanded answers as to whether management have killed off the News Lancet segment by removing all of its staff.
In response, senior managers Edna Tse, Hui Fong-fai, Oscar Lee and Anderson Chan told staff that the latest sackings were part of a cost-cutting and restructuring exercise, adding that reporters from other teams would take over the work of News Lancet.
The four managers assumed their roles after the former head of i-Cable news, William Fung, was ousted in a management reshuffle in August.
In a statement, i-Cable confirmed that around 100 staff from different departments have been affected by the latest round of terminations and "reshuffling of duties".
The company said the move was necessary to help it stay competitive and sustainable amid the faltering economy, adding that those affected will be rightly compensated.
In response, the Hong Kong Journalists Association expressed concern over the layoffs and urged media operators not to use cost-cutting as an excuse to suppress freedom of the press.
Last updated: 2020-12-01 HKT 19:40