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.