Journalists at Ming Pao yesterday called on management to postpone the removal of chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to as they set up a staff panel to push for regular meetings with bosses at the daily's parent company.
They said no personnel changes should be made until after staff met senior executives of parent company, Media Chinese International. Staff boycotted a general meeting proposed by the Chinese-language daily's management yesterday after the parent company declined to send any senior executives.
Their move came after a senior Ming Pao executive yesterday admitted that a Malaysian journalist was a candidate to take over from Lau.
A Ming Pao source said editorial director Lui Ka-ming had confirmed in a meeting with editorial management that Chong Tien Siong, former editor of the group's Malaysian paper Nanyang Siang Pau, was in the frame for Lau's job.
The meeting was attended by Lau, former chief editor Cheung Kin-bor, seven other top editorial staff and five members of the newspaper's executive committee yesterday afternoon.
Lui said he had originally planned to recommend Chong for his job, but he had shown more interest in the chief editor position. Sources said Lui admitted questioning Lau over whether the paper should continue to feature the row over free-to-air television licensing on its front page one day last year, an act some staff saw as interference with editorial decision-making.
Lui admitted his working relationship with Lau was not smooth, the source said.
The group's chief executive, Francis Tiong Kiew Chiong, is said to have told the meeting the company chose to move Lau to a new division producing e-books and learning materials because he had experience in new media.
The group said it had discussed the new role with Lau before the move.
Editorial staff yesterday elected 10 employees to set up a staff panel. It will seek to set up mechanisms for communication between editorial staff and management and to preserve editorial independence.
Panel member Sin Wan-kei said: "We hope the personnel change can be deferred as the situation is up in the air … We also want to know more about the content of the phone conversation [between Lui and Lau]."
Lau was revealed to be taking on the new job on Monday, sparking concern among staff that editorial independence would be compromised.