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Academics voice concerns over press freedom in Hong Kong

Academics and political watchers in Hong Kong have raised concern about editorial freedom after the replacement of Hong Kong daily Ming Pao's chief editor.

HONG KONG: Academics and political watchers in Hong Kong have raised concern about editorial freedom after the replacement of Hong Kong daily Ming Pao's chief editor.

The editorial changes came to light two weeks ago but the controversy still hasn't died as talks between senior management and staff broke down.

The controversy started at the beginning of January when Ming Pao suddenly announced that its chief editor Kevin Lau would be replaced.

It is now confirmed that Chong Tien Siong, a former editor of Malaysian newspaper Nanyang Siang Pau, will take over in the next two weeks.

Ming Pao staff said it might have to do with last year's coverage of the controversy over Hong Kong's free-to-air licence.

Many were shocked that Hong Kong Television wasn't awarded a licence and Ming Pao ran multiple headlines.

Other staff expressed concerns about the repositioning of the newspaper, possibly limiting the coverage of sensitive topics like political reform and Occupy Central.

On Monday, four columns in the Ming Pao daily were intentionally left blank by regular columnists to express their anger over the replacement of its chief editor.

"Journalism is team work. If you have an editor that doesn't get any trust from the newsroom, it'll be a disaster and it is alarming the employees, journalists," said Vivian Tam, one of the columnists for Ming Pao.

The former Ming Pao reporter who now teaches journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong added: "A huge majority are concerned, and they come out and voice out, which is rare in Hong Kong." 

Ming Pao staff say the new chief editor should uphold Hong Kong's freedom of expression and be familiar with Hong Kong affairs.

They criticise the new chief editor for having no local knowledge.

Another free-daily newspaper am730 owned by Hong Kong businessman Shih Wing-Ching also ran an editorial on Monday, saying that his paper was also facing financial pressures.

Mainland-backed companies were pulling out of advertising in his paper but he believes the withdrawals are only temporary.

Mr Shih added he won't compromise his paper's independent stance despite facing financial difficulties.

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