Radio Television Hong Kong on Wednesday issued a new document to its staff, saying the station must support the government in safeguarding national security and interests.
It also reminds staff members to act responsibly on social media to protect the station’s integrity and reputation and declare possible conflicts of interest.
Those who fail to comply may face disciplinary action.
The document sets out RTHK’s editorial policies and processes in detail, as it says the overriding principle is that the broadcaster must respect and uphold the One Country, Two Systems principle.
The document says it’s RTHK’s responsibility to prevent and suppress acts that endanger national security. It says “under no circumstances should our programmes provide a platform to encourage, incite, promote, glorify, endorse or sympathise with any act or activity endangering national security or otherwise contain any contents which are contrary to the interests of national security.”
It stresses RTHK programmes must not provoke or deepen hatred, discrimination or hostility towards the central government or the SAR government.
Advisor to the Director of Broadcasting, Kitty Choi, says staff could continue to interview people who are critical of the government.
“Facts speak for themselves and facts are facts as long as these are genuine comments made by real people, they actually said it, there is no problem for reporting such as facts in our news,” she said.
The document also reminds staff to avoid any contacts with foreign governments or political organisations to prevent conflict with their official duties.
It says while public interest is the basis of RTHK’s work, the station should also take into consideration national interest, which is “an essential part of public interest”.
It says the station must identify itself with national interests in programmes on mainland affairs and Taiwan.
There are updated guidelines on reporting crime. Staff members are told to never portray criminals as victims and make sure criminal acts are not sympathised, justified or glamorised, adding that RTHK’s programmes must not instigate the public to participate in acts against the law.
They are told to be cautious when reporting or producing programmes involving people who are suspected of breaching the national security law.
The document also contains new guidelines on how RTHK staff should use social media prudently, as their action has the potential to risk the station’s integrity and its reputation as a trustworthy public service broadcaster.
“One should always act responsibly on the social media and bear in mind that we have a public identity arising from our work in RTHK. The higher the seniority and visibility of one’s role in RTHK, the more prudence we expect from his/her conduct in the social media world,” it says.
It notes that that their external activities may give rise to a conflict of interest. The activities include public expression of opinion, political activities and public appearances, it says.
“It is essential that those engaged in the production of news and current affairs programmes make no public statement which could be interpreted or perceived as bias on politics or public policies or other controversial issues,” it says.
Choi said RTHK will take a “common sense approach” in vetting staff’s social media and external activities.
“It really depends on your role in the whole production chain as well as your prominence in your role etc. The overriding principle is that whatever your role is… ask yourself whether your private or external activities have a bearing affecting the impartiality image of RTHK. If so, I would urge staff to think twice.”
The document says as the guidelines are broad and may not be able to capture every scenario during the editorial process, staff are encouraged to consult their supervisors to seek guidance, while contentious programmes should be approved by the newly set up editorial meeting, comprised of the Director of Broadcasting and senior management
It also says the guidelines should be followed by everyone involved in the production of RTHK programmes, including contract staff.
Last updated: 2021-09-29 HKT 16:57