Hong Kong government broadcaster RTHK has terminated the permanent civil service contract and benefits of a journalist known for her hard-hitting questions of government officials, the staff union said.
Management had offered TV current affairs anchor Nabela Qoser a choice between resigning and taking a short-term contract, RTHK Programme Staff Union said in a post on its Facebook page.
The Hong Kong Journalists’ Association (HKJA) said the move was “political inference in the media” and “extremely unfair.”
It said Qoser has completed the three-year probationary period necessary for permanent civil servants, and shouldn’t be forced to switch to a short-term contract.
It said RTHK was dragging its feet on an investigation into a complaint made against Qoser after her grilling of officials at news conferences.
“These interviews were conducted in public and livestreamed, so it is very hard to understand why the investigation hasn’t been completed yet,” the HKJA said.
“Journalists … ask tough questions to get to the truth, which may upset people, but they are fulfilling their role as the fourth estate,” the HKJA said.
“The resumption of the investigation into this complaint is obvious political interference in the personnel matters [of RTHK], with political pressure coming from certain parties,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Qoser’s questioning of chief executive Carrie Lam in the wake of a July 31 attack by armed thugs on train passengers in Yuen Long prompted Lam and other top officials to walk out of a news conference.
She has been offered a 120-day contract as an internal investigation into complaints made about her reporting continues, RTHK reported. The probe continues despite her exoneration by a previous investigation into complaints about her.
“[The] unprecedented, arbitrary, and non-transparent” handling of the matter is an insult to everyone at RTHK,” the station quoted union chairwoman Gladys Chiu as saying.
“Whatever procedures that the management try to adopt…. in fact this is a termination of employment. However, it disguises itself as an act of grace, which is further enraging to the staff union,” Chiu told reporters.
“I believe no staff should be treated this way.”
Qoser has been given until Jan. 28 to decide whether to accept the contract.
‘Making false statements’
Meanwhile, RTHK journalist Bao Choy is awaiting trial on two counts of “making false statements” in relation to online vehicle license plate searches as she tried to track down the perpetrators of the Yuen Long mob attack in 2019.
Choy, 37, is accused of violating the Road Traffic Ordinance by not disclosing the real reason for license plate checks on May 17 and June 10 last year during her work as a producer on the RTHK program Hong Kong Connection.
Her trial date has been set for March 24. Choy has said she is being punished merely for doing her job.
When contacted by RFA for comment, RTHK said it handles staff matters in accordance with established mechanisms and procedures governing the civil service.
It declined to comment on individual cases.
The HKJA has repeatedly hit out at a hardline attitude towards journalists in Hong Kong amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent under a draconian national security law imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.
“Since June 2019, frontline reporters have repeatedly been obstructed by the police,” the group said in a Jan. 21 statement on its website.
“Many police officers have been hostile, [or have] verbally humiliated, and even used force on reporters … the situation has not improved, but actually gotten worse,” it said.
A judicial review application brought by the HKJA against police treatment of journalists was dismissed on Dec. 21, with the group saying it had decided not to appeal after taking legal advice.
“There are a large number of videos and pictures that prove that some police officers have violated laws and regulations,” it said.
Reported by Gigi Lee for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.