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World Lay-offs at Hong Kong TV station stoke concerns over media freedom

12:45  01 december  2020
12:45  01 december  2020 Source:   reuters.com

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HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong television station said on Tuesday about 100 staff were "affected" by a shake-up as it seeks to control costs and remain competitive in a challenging economic environment, a move that has re-ignited worries over media freedom in the city.

a group of police officers riding on the back of a motorcycle: The logo of Cable TV news is seen on a camera outside its building after about 100 members of staff have been laid off in Hong Kong © Reuters/TYRONE SIU The logo of Cable TV news is seen on a camera outside its building after about 100 members of staff have been laid off in Hong Kong

Local media said 40 workers had been laid off from i-Cable, including the entire team from the station's award-winning investigative section News Lancet.

"In the face of daunting challenges, the group has devoted to adopting various measures to explore new business opportunities for competitiveness enhancement and sustainable development," the station said in a statement, adding that about 100 positions of the group's 1,300 staff would be affected.

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a group of people standing in front of a crowd: i-Cable TV news journalist leaves with a box after being laid off in Hong Kong © Reuters/TYRONE SIU i-Cable TV news journalist leaves with a box after being laid off in Hong Kong

"Under this circumstance, after a comprehensive review, it was unavoidable for the group to carry out an organizational restructure of various departments."

a group of people performing on a counter: i-Cable TV news journalists leave with their boxes after being laid off in Hong Kong © Reuters/TYRONE SIU i-Cable TV news journalists leave with their boxes after being laid off in Hong Kong

The pay TV station did not say how many had been sacked.

Wong Lai-ping, deputy chief of the station's China News team, which covers human rights on the mainland and reported from Wuhan province on the coronavirus outbreak, told reporters she was among those laid off. Ten other members of the team had resigned in protest against the lay-offs, she added.

a sign on the side of a building: A man leaves i-Cable TV building after about 100 members of staff have been laid off in Hong Kong © Reuters/TYRONE SIU A man leaves i-Cable TV building after about 100 members of staff have been laid off in Hong Kong

i-Cable journalists told Reuters the lay-offs had prompted the heads of the station's China News, Hong Kong General News, Finance News and Editing desk to resign.

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a group of people standing in front of a crowd: i-Cable TV news journalist talkes to the media after being laid off in Hong Kong © Reuters/TYRONE SIU i-Cable TV news journalist talkes to the media after being laid off in Hong Kong

Yau Ting-leung, 22, a journalist from the News Lancet segment who said he was fired after about six months with the company, said he was sceptical of the reason behind the decision.

"It's definitely media censorship. It's a pity they sacked the entire team. There aren't many TV investigative news programmes in Hong Kong," Yau said.

i-Cable told Reuters it had no comment when asked about reports of censorship.

The Hong Kong Journalists' Association said it was watching the situation closely as media have already come under pressure in the wake of a new national security law introduced by Beijing on its freest city on June 30.

"This time the whole 'News Lancet' team of Cable News was laid off and the team has often reported against/on the police or the regime in the past year," HKJA said in a statement.

i-Cable was founded in 1993 and is now owned by David Chiu, chairman and CEO of Far East Consortium.

(Reporting By Sharon Tam, Jessie Pang; Yanni Chow; Clare Jim, Donny Kwok, Joyce Zhou; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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