In performing their function as the Fourth Estate, media should exercise the highest degree of fairness and level-headedness.
In monitoring the actions, words and performance of officials and politicians, media should always side with the truth and with what is right, and refrain from using press freedom to defend hate speech or resort to insults even if their target belongs to the opposite side of the political fence.
Media cannot afford to lower their ethical and professional standards for we cannot afford to lose the trust of our readers.
As such, we cannot help but react to an editorial published on Wednesday by Headline Daily, the city’s biggest free newspaper with a daily circulation of 900,000 copies.
The editorial commented that pan-democrat lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen deserved what he got from two women who verbally abused him on his sexual orientation while aboard the MTR train earlier this week.
Headline Daily said members of the Legislative Council serve as role models to the public, and if “some” of them use foul language inside the chamber, then they deserve the same treatment from the public.
We certainly cannot fathom the logic of that argument. How can something intrinsically wrong be justified?
If some legislators insult public officials in the chamber, can they be insulted by members of the public outside Legco?
In the first place, as professional newspapermen, we should comment on issues based on facts and not on personal biases.
However, the Headline Daily editorial appears to have overlooked the fact that Chan has never used foul language in the chamber since he was elected to the legislative body in 2012.
He may have been outspoken in his denunciation of government failings and abuses, but he certainly was not “raving like a mad dog” as he was described by the two feisty ladies on the passenger train.
The editorial writer must have mistaken Chan for another Legco member, Wong Yuk-man, who had used expletives in some of the regular sessions in the chamber. In fact, Wong is no longer a member of People Power, Chan’s party.
But even if Chan had used foul language inside the chamber, he doesn’t deserve to be insulted in public by two strangers who have not been personally attacked, abused or wronged in any way by the legislator.
The abuse on Chan was totally unprovoked and uncalled for, and it should not be condoned, much less defended by media, which have the responsibility to tell the people what is proper and what is not.
But by condoning the action of the two ladies on the MTR, and instead saying that Chan deserved what he got, Headline Daily is contributing to the discrimination of people on account of their political persuasion or sexual orientation.
We know that Hong Kong, despite its cosmopolitan trappings, is essentially a conservative society. Many people still frown upon members of the LGBT community.
But as supposedly enlightened members of society, journalists and media people should help in changing this wrong attitude of treating people based on their gender, race, belief or sexual orientation.
Section 46 of the Disability Discrimination Ordinance and Section 45 of the Race Discrimination Ordinance state clearly that “a person, regardless of gender, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, etc., should be treated equally and fairly”.
If the incident on the MTR happened to a disabled person or a member of an ethnic minority, it may be considered a breach of the law.
However, according to the Progressive Lawyer Group, there is currently no legislation in the city in relation to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Weeks ago, Sing Tao News Corp., the parent company of Headline Daily, sued several members of People Power for staging a noisy protest during a school debate competition sponsored by the newspaper group.
The democrats were actually directing their protest against Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor, the event’s guest of honor. But, of course, Sing Tao management was not amused.
In light of that incident, we cannot help but think that the incident might have had some bearing on the editorial’s defensive stance regarding the two ladies who attacked Chan.
Chan is a member of the People Power party, and as they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
And, of course, Sing Tao has long been a pro-establishment newspaper group.
As a Chinese-language newspaper with the biggest circulation in the city, Headline Daily has enormous influence in society. And as a free newspaper, it can readily be accessed by readers of all age groups.
As such, the newspaper has a bigger responsibility to its readers. It should exercise utmost care about what it says, especially in its editorials.
It may choose to serve the interest of its readers, of the authorities or of its own. Readers, sooner or later, will be the judge of that.
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