Scapegoat claim after Next sackings

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 October, 2003, 12:00am

Next magazine's dismissal of the reporter and photographer of a story about a secondary school student allegedly working as a prostitute appears to have stoked outrage against the publication.

Rights groups and legislators yesterday demanded an apology from the magazine's upper management, and called on the public to stop buying it.

A story in a Next issue last week featured a girl from a convent school allegedly working as a prostitute at a cyber cafe.

But the photographer, Chiang Kwan, insisted during Commercial Radio talk show Teacup in a Storm on Monday that he was pressured by the deputy editor to go to the school and take unauthorised pictures. He said he had refused.

Peggy Lam Pei Yu-dja, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Federation of Women, described the magazine's actions as 'unethical and irresponsible'.

She also said the employees concerned were scapegoats.

Mrs Lam called on the government and the public to discourage the kind of journalism practised by some publications. 'If nobody buys the magazine, there will be no such news,' she said.

Officials at the convent school declined to comment.

Education sector legislator Cheung Man-kwong said he had sent a letter to the magazine to protest against the article and called on senior management, including chief editor Cho Siu-chun, to apologise.

'I don't think the magazine should have shown the name of the school and printed a picture, or to mention the class the girl belongs to - it violates the spirit of press freedom,' he said. 'I am very frustrated that the photographer and reporter were sacked, it is a matter of management.'

Mr Cheung said he would raise a question in the Legislative Council about how the police and the government could help protect schoolgirls who worked in cyber cafes.

Reports indicate the assignment editor had also been asked to resign. Ms Cho has said she would respond to the criticism against Next in the issue to be published tomorrow. The magazine declined comment yesterday.