ATV - Asia Television Limited

ATV staff dig in over editorial autonomy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 September, 2011, 12:00am

Journalists vowed to fight for editorial autonomy after ATV vice-president Tammy Tam was told to take two months' leave immediately as she arrived at work yesterday, in an apparent widening of a rift between senior management and the news team.

In a statement issued by the broadcaster's editorial staff following Tam's abrupt departure, the journalists said they would uphold freedom of the press and editorial independence. 'No matter what pressure we may face, we will deal with every news story with justice, fairness and objectiveness,' it said.

The statement also demanded that senior management explain the handling of an erroneous report on the death of former president Jiang Zemin. It also said management should not mix news content with sponsored content.

The departure of Tam was reported as the fourth item of its noon newscast, following a traffic accident, the stock market situation and a new book written by former premier Zhu Rongji. In its evening newscast, the report broadcast a statement from Tam with her file picture as background.

'The company asked me to take a holiday and I feel it is time for me to take a break after working hard for so long,' she said. 'As journalists, we must uphold our principles and dignity and that is not easy.'

The latest incident in the wake of ATV's wrong report over the death of Jiang occurred a day after its journalists ignored an instruction from their newly appointed news chief to play down a Democratic Party protest over the broadcaster's editorial independence.

Tam, a veteran journalist, handed in her resignation on Monday when news chief Leung Ka-wing quit, saying he took responsibility for the failure to prevent the airing of the erroneous report on Jiang's death.

But she remained in the newsroom and senior vice-president of news and public affairs Lau Lan-cheong, who replaced Leung, said on Wednesday that the broadcaster was still considering if her resignation would be accepted.

But things appeared to have taken a new twist after Tam revealed to the news team that Lau had instructed her to downplay coverage of the Democratic Party demonstration. She was said to have told the team that as she was leaving anyway they should decide for themselves how to handle the matter.

A person close to the ATV newsroom said that as Tam came in yesterday she was told to take a two-month holiday. She demanded to be allowed to complete the day's newscast first but the request was refused. 'Saying goodbye to colleagues, Tam asked all of them to defend journalistic principles. She added that she felt happy to work in ATV until the very last moment,' the person said.