About 80 staff members of Ming Pao Daily staged a rally at their office building in Chai Wan on Tuesday to protest the decision of their editor-in-chief to replace the newspaper’s banner story about confidential files on the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square event, Apple Daily reported.
The protesting journalists laid their pens on the floor to show that they are ready to stop writing for the newspaper.
Some of the staff members called on their colleagues to “hang on” despite the increasing political pressure, even as they urged Chong Tien Siong, the Malaysian chief editor, to fully explain his decision on Sunday night to downgrade the prominence of the June 4 story.
Sin Wan-kei, a staff member, said while the chief editor has the right to decide what stories are to appear on the front page and the rest of the newspaper, there is a collective decision-making mechanism that has been working effectively and should be respected.
“What were the reasons behind his sudden change of mind late in the night?” Sin asked.
When Chong was appointed last year, staff members expressed their hope that he would help protect the freedom of the press, and work to better understand the operations of the working teams in Hong Kong and win their trust, Sin said.
“We would find it difficult put our trust in a chief editor like this,” she added.
Finance editor Shum Chi-ho said it was beyond everyone’s comprehension why an important and exclusive story was not picked as the newspaper’s headline story for the Monday edition as agreed by senior editors during their editorial meeting the day before.
Senior reporter Tam Chung-yin from the local news section raised concern that the move could lead to similar editorial interventions in the future.
Chong issued a statement in the early hours of Wednesday, saying that as chief editor he has the right to alter the story sequence. Chong said he exercised news logic to put the story about Alibaba’s announcement of a fund for young entrepreneurs as the lead story and did not amend the content of the June 4 confidential files story.
Chong only made brief appearances on Monday and Tuesday afternoon and did not take part in the daily editorial meeting at 5pm.
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