Hundreds of people have protested in Hong Kong against a veteran newspaper editor’s dismissal that has increased concerns about press freedom in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The sacking of Keung Kwok-yuen, Ming Pao daily’s second-in-command editor, came after the newspaper published a report on the Panama Papers document leak revealing offshore business dealings of the rich and powerful.
The newspaper said Keung was dismissed to save operating costs.
Journalists, activists and politicians attended Monday’s rally, held outside the Ming Pao Industrial Center.
Protesters carried signs saying “Protect journalists, protect Ming Pao, protect press freedom.”
Al Jazeera’s Sarah Clarke, reporting from the protest, said: “The anger is not only confined to this particular newspaper but is spread around the whole news industry in Hong Kong.
“Some say that the city’s press freedoms have been steeply eroded by the increasing influence from mainland China.”
Rich and powerful
The trove of documents, released in April by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, has exposed how Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm, helped China’s rich and powerful move their wealth into tax havens.
“The public is very concerned over press freedoms in Hong Kong. We have been doing a good job… covering a lot of news including sensitive political issues such as human rights in China,” Agence France-Presse news agency quoted Phyllis Tsang, head of the newspaper’s staff association, as saying.
“We demand a clear explanation [from the management]on the real reasons for the firing of Mr. Keung.
“Was there any relation to this kind of reporting?”
Before Keung’s dismissal, Ming Pao carried a front-page report on Hong Kong politicians and businesspeople named in the Panama Papers.
There has been growing anxiety in recent years among many Hong Kong journalists and politicians about the influence of China on the territory.
Hong Kong retained its own civil liberties when it was handed over from Britain in 1997.
Media groups with close business and personal ties to Chinese politicians have been accused of soft-pedaling their coverage of issues that are potentially embarrassing to China and its allies in Hong Kong.
Wikipedia writes that “Ming Pao operates with a mission and longstanding editorial direction to present comprehensive, objective and bias-free coverage and analyses on political and economic issues in both mainland China and Hong Kong. It aims at providing comprehensive and accurate reports on political and economic issues in Hong Kong and mainland China. Well known for its accuracy in language, many secondary schools in Hong Kong encourage their students to subscribe to Ming Pao to improve their Chinese language.”
On its history, Wikipedia writes:
“Ming Pao was first published on 20 May 1959, and was founded by the famous Chinese wuxia novelist Louis Cha, known better by his pseudonym Jinyong, and his friend, Shen Pao Sing. Daisy Li Yuet-Wah won an International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists for her work with the paper in 1994.
“Ming Pao was then taken over by Tiong Hiew King in 1995. Ming Pao now is published by Ming Pao Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary of Media Chinese International Limited, which was formed by the successful merger of Ming Pao Enterprise Corporation Limited (Hong Kong), Sin Chew Media Corporation Berhad (Malaysia) and Nanyang Press Holdings Berhad (Malaysia) in April 2008.
“In 2014, the appointment of new chief editor Chong Tien Siong sparked controversy and internal revolt, due to Siong’s close ties to Beijing, and was seen as a major threat to the Chinese-language newspaper’s editorial independence.”
©2016 Al Jazeera (Doha, Qatar)
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