Victory: TVB’s reporters issue open letter condemning narrative tampering

A bunch of reporters from TVB write an open letter condemning the tampering with impartial reporting. 

English translation (I translated this shortly after the letter was publicised for the benefit of those who don’t read Cantonese):

Open letter from a group of TVB News reporters

We write regarding the report of the police’s clearing out protesters in the early morning hours of 15 October 2014, near Lung Wo Street and Tamar Park. We disagree with how the news report was treated and TVB’s management. This letter expresses our dismay.

That night, our videographers at the scene recorded footage of several policemen take a protester, whose hands were tied, to a corner, and carried out certain actions on the protester.

Until 7am the day of the incident, the description that went along with the footage, in our view an impartial report, was as follows:

“A protester’s hands were tied with plastic straps and taken away by six policemen. The policemen lifted him up, took him to a dark corner in Tamar Park, put him on the ground, then punched and kicked him. During the incident two policemen left the scene, and the policemen left behind continued to kick the protester. In the end, the policemen took the protester away. The whole incident lasted about four minutes.” 

The report after 7am had a different version. The description “put him on the ground, then punched and kicked him. During the incident two policemen left the scene, and the policemen left behind continued to kick the protester” had been removed.

It wasn’t until about noon that the words “during which policemen allegedly used force [on the protester]” were added back to the narrative.

To be fair, the words “punching and kicking” isn’t without doubt, and among reporters we’ve discussed whether or not it was the most appropriate wording. We do, however, agree that “punching and kicking” does not constitute false reporting, and we further cannot accept that it wasn’t until noon that a description was added back [to the footage] to explain what happened. For about 5 hours, the footage did not have the corresponding verbal narrative. This not only made the report into an incomplete report, it also reflects that [TVB’s] management didn’t trust the original report. For this, we feel extremely unsettled, and we cannot agree [with the management’s view].

In our view this is doing a disservice to reporting the truth. We reiterate that the deleted narrative did not contain the reporter’s own view or emotion. It was merely impartial reporting based on fact. The public sentiment after viewing this report, for instance being dissatisfied with how the police handled the incident, or sympathising with the police force’s difficulty in enforcing the law, is a matter of public debate. Reporters should not, and need not, consider that [when carrying out their duty].

As the local largest free television broadcast station, we wish that reporters and management maintain their professional standards, which include honouring the principles of reporting, report based on fact, in order to bring accurate, objective and complete information to the public.

Over the past 10 plus days, we frontline reporting staff and the staff at the news desk have worked ceaselessly at our respective posts, doing all we can to report the truth. We hope that society cherishes Hong Kong’s freedom of the press, supports reporters’ independent reporting, and refrains from obstructing reporters from reporting the truth.

Collectively signed by:

[names of TVB reporters and news desk staff]

Facebook link containing original letter. 

Cantonese version

一群無綫新聞部記者的公開信

我們對十月十五日凌晨時分,在龍和道與添馬公園範圍發生的一則警方清場新聞,其處理手法與公司管理層意見分歧,特此聲明,表示遺憾。

當晚現場攝影記者的鏡頭,記錄了多名警務人員將一名示威者制服,抬到一角,之後對該名雙手被綁的示威者有所動作。

我們認為,截至早上七時前的報道字眼,是對過程作中立客觀描述,當時報道如下:

「一名示威者雙手被綁上索帶,由六名警員帶走。警員將他抬起,帶到添馬公園一個暗角位,將他放在地上,對他拳打腳踢。期間兩名警員離開,留下的警員繼續再用腳踢示威者。警員最後帶走示威者,整個過程歷時近四分鐘。」

然而由早上七時起播出的版本,「將他放在地上,對他拳打腳踢。期間兩名警員離開,留下的警員繼續再用腳踢示威者」,這段描述被刪去。

直至時近中午,才重新加入「期間懷疑警員對他使用武力」一句。

誠然,「拳打腳踢」這字眼並非不容置疑,是否最客觀用語,同儕間亦就不同意見討論過。但我們的共識是,「拳打腳踢」並非失實陳述,亦不能接受直至接近午間新聞,才對事件怎樣發生,加上一句描述。期間近五小時,有關畫面的旁述一直從缺。這不但使報道忽然變得不完整,同時也反映了管理層對原來之報道並不信任,對此我們感到極度不安,也實在無法苟同。

我們認為,這樣對報道真相而言,是一個缺失。我們重申,一度被刪減的描述,沒有滲入記者個人立場或情緒,只是客觀根據事實報道。受眾的觀後感,例如會否不滿警方的手法,或體諒警方執法困難,自有公論,新聞工作者不應,也不必予以考慮。

作為本地最大免費電視台,期望前線和管理層均恪守專業,堅守原則,以事實為本,為公眾帶來準確客觀及全面資訊。

作為前線記者,十多日來,本台新聞部的同事日以繼夜緊守崗位,盡力報道事實。惟望社會一同珍惜香港僅有的新聞自由,支持記者獨立採訪,避免阻撓記者報道事實。

聯署人

陳健民
何文雯
伍瑋瑋
李芷琪
李卓謙
李盼儂
利君雅
吳璟儁
阮嘉丰
林子豪
林彥邦
林昭儀
陳亮均
陳逸思
陳嘉欣
單景煒
曾百慧
黃曉瑩
彭國柱
詹前穎
趙珮瑜
潘蔚林
鄭萃雯
劉芷欣
鄭詩亭
羅若安
談美琪
Rani Samtani

(名單持續更新)
陳敏婷
李偉達
陳栢晞
周芷菱
劉偉軒
楊皓然
杜施惠
封艷明
徐奇暉
陳家敏
郭劍峰
吳煒茵
胡若靈
彭芷敏
阮明珠
尹仲然
陳小燕

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2 comments on “Victory: TVB’s reporters issue open letter condemning narrative tampering

  1. Pingback: Signs for freedom | Pixie Dust Beach

  2. The whole idea of a reporters story being rewritten before release (outside of normal editing procedure of course) is ridiculous, and immediately brings up the specter of corruption in general, most often, specific governmental corruption. If the reporters are the eyes and ears of the general populous, then their work should stand as produced without alteration of meaning or essential content. Otherwise, we can just skip the reporters, and subscribe to a state-run sci-fi network, and get our daily news there, where we will at least get a higher degree of quality entertainment for our hard-earned, and over-taxed dollars.

    Like

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