Category Archives: Asia

Lack of Free Media and Free Elections: Subtext to Missing Malaysia Jet

Loads of people are speculating as to what happened to MH370.  The speculation has so dominated the news that satirist Andy Borowitz noted CNN APOLOGIZES FOR BRIEFLY AIRING NON-FLIGHT 370 STORY.

All joking aside, while the media report every bit of information put out by the Malaysian government (and others), the shortcomings of that information are clear.

The leadership of the primary countries initially involved in the search — Malaysia, Vietnam and China — were hesitant to reveal information at first, partly because — as we all know — initial information often wrong needs to be corrected or fine-tuned.

In the end, for these governments to admit they made errors could undermine their authority. You see, none of these three governments rule by the consent of the people. Media are strictly regulated. Independent sources of information to challenge and question the authorities are virtually non-existent. And opposition leaders are tossed in jail.

The New York Times touched on this issue — at least as far as Malaysia goes — March 12: Amid Search for Plane, Malaysian Leaders Face Rare Scrutiny.

The article points to all the factors that made — make — the Malaysian government nervous about their current situation in the international spotlight:

  1. Authoritarian laws that keep the opposition in check
  2. Policies that favor the ethnic Malays
  3. A patronage system that excludes Indians and Chinese from policy positions. (Combined these groups constitute a majority)

What was missed in the article is the highly censored media.

The Malaysian government has never had to face hard questions from local reporters. And if they get questioned too fiercely by opposition parties, the leadership of those parties find themselves in jail such as Anwar Ibraham and Karpal Singh.

Malaysia is listed as having media that are Not Free by Freedom House. As are China and Vietnam.

Perhaps there is nothing that any country could do in the search for MH370. What is clear, however, is that the the initial three main players in the search were unable to deal with the situation, partially out of fear of being corrected later. Maybe they figured that questioning the veracity of one agency could lead to questions about other agencies and eventually the government itself.

It is odd how countries with no fair elections or free media fear any questions about the effectiveness of government agencies. (Look at the NYT article to see how the Malaysian government reacted.)

So that is the subtext to the search for MH370: The lack of free media and unfettered political opposition makes the governments look ineffective. In other words, it makes them less stable. And so, information is fragmented or withheld out of fear.

On another note:

As noted above, the Borowitz Report mentioned at the top pointed out how the US media have been all over the story. That piece was satire. But nothing, Borowitz could think of could have matched what CNN’s Don Lemon did. This was perhaps an all-time low for CNN when Lemon wondered if the disappearance was related to supernatural forces

UPDATE (3/19 18:32)

Okay, Fox News beat CNN for silliness.

Fox News host Bill Hemmer went on about how long it is taking to find the plane. He cited 100 years for the Titanic and 2,000 years for Noah’s Ark.

Yep. Hemmer cited a long-debunked claim that Noah’s Ark was found in Turkey. (Even Fox News knows the Ark story was a fake.)

The competition between CNN and Fox continues.

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Filed under Asia, Censorship, China, Connections, Freedom of access, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

Somebody’s feeling are going to be hurt: Maps of stereotype

Tea Leaf Nation has a great map of the stereotypes of China by Chinese based on social media auto-complete searches.

A Map of China, By Stereotype

This is similar to the one done about the United States: ‘Why Is Louisiana So Racist?’ Google Autocomplete Map Shows State Stereotypes

Personally I like the query from China: Why are many from the southern metropolis of Shanghai “unfit to lead”?

But honestly, I can’t wait for the Party leadership in Beijing to complain about how auto-complete (in China) has hurt the feelings of all Chinese by using these stereotypes.

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Filed under Asia, China, Connections, Story Ideas

Vietnam jails blogger, keeping up policy of free press suppression

Truong Duy Nhat, 50, was found to have “abused his freedoms to infringe upon the state’s interest” in posts on his blog, the last of which was in May last year, when he criticized the procedure for Vietnam first-ever parliamentary censure motion.

Vietnam jails ex-journalist over anti-government blog

 

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Filed under Asia, Harassment, Press Freedom

NHK credibility on the line

Government-owned news organizations usually cause some people to pause and think about the impartiality of the editorial policy. And yet some of the most respectable news organizations in the world depend on government largesse.

No one will question the quality and independent nature of the BBC.

Likewise, the Voice of America has an international reputation of fairness and impartiality. (A handful of misinformed Americans and anti-US propagandists outside America think otherwise, but the facts are against them.) And has a charter protecting journalists from interference from political control.

In Asia RTHK in Hong Kong fights daily to keep mainland China and the Hong Kong government out of its editorial policy. So far, it has been successful.

Also in Asia the NHK is seen as a global example of a government-financed news organization that digs deep, tells its stories without bias and stays with the facts.

Now, the reputation of the NHK is on the line.

In recent months, some members of the board of governors at NHK have expressed extreme positions, such as the Rape of Nanjing never happened and defended the practice of “sex slaves” during World War II.

Board member Naoki Hyakuta said Japan was lured into the war by America because of the economic embargo imposed after Japan invaded China. He also said Japan was liberating Asia from white colonialism.

According to the Independent in London, NHK’s new chairman, Katsuto Momii, stunned journalists by saying it was “only natural” that NHK should follow the government line on Japan’s territorial disputes with its neighbors. “When the government says ‘left’ we can’t say ‘right’,” he said.

It is that very statement that has people – including other news organizations in Japan – nervous.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe named Momii and Hyakuta to the 12-member board. He also named two other members who have also expressed hardline nationalist views.

Abe has a history of interfering with the NHK prodcuts.

According to The Diplomat:

[Abe] was the central player in the notorious muzzling of a NHK documentary about the comfort women that took place a few years ago. The documentary in question concerned efforts by women’s rights groups in Japan to highlight the government’s failure adequately to compensate surviving comfort women. Abe, already a very senior government official, paid a personal visit to NHK shortly before airtime to insist that the documentary be “fair and neutral.” NHK management immediately called the producers to demand drastic editorial changes to the already completed program. Last-minute revisions included the removal of all criticism of LDP policy and Emperor Hirohito. Also cut were dramatic confessions by two Japanese veterans admitting rape. Criticisms of the women’s movement were hurriedly inserted, including an interview with a discredited revisionist historian. Even the program title was whitewashed, from “Japanese Military’s Wartime Sexual Violence” to “Questioning Wartime Sexual Violence.” Far from being “fair and neutral” the final program was a lop-sided swipe at the redress movement and a complete exoneration of the LDP.

The Japanese High Court cleared Abe of charges of interference and berated the documentary producers for over reacting to Abe’s visit.

If the views of the board find their way into the NHK reporting, Japan and the world will lose what has been an excellent news organization.

A bit more reading on this issue:

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Filed under Asia, Harassment, International News Coverage

March on Washington: The Organizer and The World Connection

August 28, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

From that march, tens of thousands of people returned to their homes motivated to work harder to end racial discrimination. It was at that march that Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

And yet, one of the least know players in that event was Bayard Rustin. In fact, without Bayard the march would not have happened. Likewise, without Bayard the pacifist nature of the King campaign for racial equality might not have happened.

Now, Bayard is getting his due from the U.S. government. President Obama announced this month that Bayard will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously. The Medal of Honor is the highest award the U.S. government gives to civilians for service to the country.

Here is the White House write up on Bayard

Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin was an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all. An advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he promoted nonviolent resistance, participated in one of the first Freedom Rides, organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities at home and abroad. As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.

Freedom House praised the action: “three resounding cheers for President Barack Obama’s decision to name Bayard Rustin as a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Freedom this year.”

Bayard always saw the connection between democracy and freedom in the United States with the fight for freedom around the world. In his later years, Bayard spent most of his time addressing these issues worldwide:

While much of his attention was focused on developments in Africa, he was among the first to speak out against the horrors Cambodians suffered under the genocidal policies of the Khmer Rouge, and he championed the causes of the Vietnamese boat people, the Solidarity trade union in Poland, and Soviet Jews. Bayard was increasingly concerned about the domination of African societies by repressive, thuggish dictatorships, and by the silence of black political figures in the United States over the region’s lack of freedom. Strongly influenced by the fate of European Jewry under Adolf Hitler’s persecution and by ongoing threats to Israel from its neighbors, Bayard came to adjust his pacifist views that had been formed in pre-Holocaust times.

“Brother Outsider” is a 2008 documentary about Bayard that fairly and distinctly tells his story. It is well worth a watch.

And lastly, I had the privilege of meeting and talking with Bayard on several occasions. His contributions to advancing a civil society need to better known and appreciated.

To repeat what Arch Puddington said: “Three resounding cheers for President Barack Obama’s decision.”

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Filed under Africa, Asia, Connections, International News Coverage

Sri Lankan Defense Minister Threatens Journalist With Death

Cover your kids’ eyes. This is not a headline for the under 18 crowd.

Sri Lankan defence secretary: “You shit fucking journalist … People hate you. They will kill you”

While many public figures may think that way about journalists, few are stupid enough to say it during an interview.

According to the weekly, The Sunday Leader, the defense minister told Frederica Jansz during an interview: “You pig that eats shit! You shit shit dirty fucking journalist! […] People will kill you! People hate you! They will kill you!”

Jansz is the editor of The Sunday Leader.

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Filed under Asia, Corruption, Harassment

FCC Human Rights Press Awards Presented

Each year for the past 16 years the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong, along with the Hong Kong Journalist Association and Amnesty International have celebrated the best of Asian journalism. (I was lucky enough to be on that committee during my time in Hong Kong.)

This is a major award that draws attention to not only good reporting but also the repression against free media that takes place in too many Asian countries.

The host is my buddy Frances Moriarty, a top-notch journalist with RTHK.

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Filed under Asia, International News Coverage