The local media may be restraining themselves because they are trying to win favours from officials, the former head of RTHK, Cheung Man-yee, said yesterday.
Ms Cheung, who headed the government-owned radio station between 1986 and 1999, said she believed it was the responsibility of the media to promote democracy, citing the role of RTHK in the coverage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and the pre-handover Sino-British talks over Hong Kong's future.
The pro-Beijing magazine Mirror Monthly reported this month that RTHK should become a 'governing tool' because 'a strong government needs to have strong public opinion support'.
But Ms Cheung said: 'It seems the [private] media - including newspapers, magazines, radio and TV - have become less critical of officials in order to maintain friendly relations, so they will be more willing to appear on their shows. It is you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. There is no such thing in the RTHK.'
She said the new policy secretary in charge of RTHK should uphold editorial independence, adding she was not interested in being a 'minister' under Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's accountability system, but declined to elaborate.
Mr Tung sent Ms Cheung to Tokyo as a trade representative in 1999 after the pro-Beijing camp's attacks on RTHK over its political satire programme Headliner and after she allowed a Taipei envoy to elaborate on former president Lee Teng-hui's two-state theory while being interviewed on air.
But yesterday Ms Cheung, who is in Hong Kong for a brief stopover and is expected to appear at today's Hong Kong Film Awards presentation, said: '[On the pace of democracy], Hong Kong seems to be moving forward three steps but then going back two steps. In reality, you might not be able to achieve what you want. But you must know what you are aiming at.'