February 26, 2007
Home and away defamation

Unsurprisingly the FEER lost a procedural decision in Sinagpore's courts...and in the midsts of a report on the matter comes this interesting paragraph:

whether the Lees intend to carry their threat outside the city-state because even if the courts ultimately award them damages, it is unlikely that they could recoup within the country itself. Firewalls erected between sister companies mean that Dow Jones Corporation, which owns the publication, would probably be protected from any defamation judgment as well.

The government could conceivably take advantage of a Commonwealth statute that allows for reciprocal enforcement of damages and ask the Hong Kong courts to order the Review to pay up. A Singaporean judgment would first have to be registered in Hong Kongs Court of First Instance, where it would be enforced like a local judgment. The Review would have the right to raise objections and set out reasons that the judgment shouldnt be honoured. But in his written judgment turning down the magazine's appeal, Menon wrote that it is clear that the Lees were limiting their claim for damages to Singapore and that legal papers had been served in an appropriate manner.

It seems that's unlikely the Singaporeans will come to Hong Kong, which is telling both on the merits of the case and the merits of Singapore's judiciary.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:46
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December 13, 2006

Donald Asprey in today's Standard Metro section tells the story of a Hong Kong couple who kept a blog recounting the tragic 9 day life of their baby. Indeed it's such a good story that it was also reported by Tonny Chan, in the Standard's Metro section yesterday. All of which begs a couple of questions. Firstly, do the reporters at The Standard read their own paper? Secondly, does the Metro editor at The Standard read their own paper? Thirdly, are they that short of story ideas?

Meanwhile, Mark Clifford's musical chairs continues at the SCMP. What is it with the English language papers in this town?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:06
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September 27, 2006
The revolution will be printed

The Standard continues its rapid slide towards becoming the People's Daily for suits. Today "Zhong Ming" ("a nom de plume...a senior journalist in Beijing) explains why China's new media curbs are good for business but omits to say that it's good for Xinhua's business (CDT has details of the new restrictions). The Standard prints this propaganda piece on a light blue background to make sure it gets noticed in the midsts of PR puff pieces and corporate notices.

The piece itself is idiotic. Try the final two paragraphs:

It is generally accepted that China's new regulations on acquisitions and policy adjustment will create a better investment climate in the long term.

Though, superficially, scrutiny of acquisitions by foreign firms will be more intense with a view towards relatively tighter control, the new rules have clarified ambiguous concepts and will serve to ward off foreign investment frauds and stimulate acquisition deals.

"Generally accepted"? Anyone seen an opinion poll to back that up? The final paragraph sets a record for contradicting itself in the fewest words possible. Either the reviews are superficial or they are intense, but they can't be both. If it leads to tighter controls then by definition that has to restrict deals, not stimulate them.

Meanwhile the SCMP generates itself a front page story by ringing Milton Friedman, age 94, and asking him what he thinks of Donald Tsang's word games.:

Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, who once lauded Hong Kong as the perfect model of a free-market economy, said he was disappointed - though not surprised - to see the city had moved away from a laissez-faire economic policy...Dr Friedman noted there had been strong pressure in Hong Kong to move away from positive non-interventionism since China's resumption of sovereignty.

"Ever since Hong Kong shifted from being a colony of Britain to being a subsidiary of China there has been strong pressure for Hong Kong to move away from laissez-faire," Dr Friedman said. "It is not surprising, but it is disappointing, to see Hong Kong move in that direction. The future of both [mainland] China and Hong Kong depends on whether Chinese policies move towards Hong Kong's or vice versa. I believe it is a move in the wrong direction. Hong Kong flourished with a policy of nearly complete laissez-faire and that it seems to me is the appropriate policy not only for Hong Kong, but for all countries."

Hong Kong's economy has been many things, but laissez-faire it wasn't and isn't. Donald Tsang didn't change that.

It must have been a slow news day in Hong Kong yesterday, but at least the SCMP got the respected Dr. Friedman as filler, rather than The Standard's disgrace.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:27
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May 12, 2006
Don't believe this

The SCMP reports:

People's dissatisfaction with news magazines climbed to 42 per cent last month, according to the latest poll by the University of Hong Kong. Robert Chung Ting-yiu, programme director, said people's appraisal of the news media in general dropped to 49 per cent over the past six months, mainly due to growing dissatisfaction with the print media. "Over the last six months, people's satisfaction with newspapers dropped by 7 percentage points, while their dissatisfaction with news magazines climbed to 42 per cent, which is a record high since this survey series started in 1993," Dr Chung said.

Satisfaction with newspapers was down to 31 per cent, while satisfaction with television increased by two points to 73 per cent...Fifty-five per cent said television was the most trustworthy source of news, the same level as the October survey. Sixteen per cent trusted newspapers the most, up by 1 per cent from the last survey. The figure was 14 per cent for radio and 3 per cent for the internet. Less than 1 per cent found news magazines the most trustworthy.

That makes this site 3 times more trustworthy the The Economist. It would be churlish to point out the irony of this report appearing in the pages of the SCMP.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:55
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May 09, 2006
Things you won't see in the New York Times

"Man tortured. Forced to drink urine and lick dog prick."

Click the link. You really need to read the whole thing.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:49
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February 08, 2006
Goodbye and hello
Via a little birdie, soon to be editor-in-chief at SCMP Mark Clifford's departing email at The Standard:
Dear Colleagues,

It's with very mixed emotions that I leave today. We have built an extraordinary team here over the past two years, one that includes some of the most talented people I've ever worked with. Through talent, smarts, skill and a lot hard work, we've re-established The Standard as a force to be reckoned with in what's probably the world's most crowded and competitive newspaper market.

We've won numerous prizes, posted circulation gains that would have most other publishers in the world drooling with envy and pushed up advertising revenues even while diversifying our revenue base away from its traditional over-reliance on Notices. We've built a well-regarded and increasingly heavily-trafficked website. And our marketing and circulation team has made sure that people know about us and that we are selling newspapers. We have a wonderful Weekend section that is a refreshing counterpoint to the daily diet of well-regarded Business and Metro news. Our Sports and Opinion sections have numerous and growing numbers of fans.

All this and the much much more that I didn't write about are a reflection of what you do every day. I want to thank all of you, as well as those who have left. It would be unfair to single anyone out but I do want to note the tremendous contributions of Lin and John. Despite great differences in temperament, management style and, most important, the direction the newspaper should go, Lin and John were instrumental in making this a newspaper that matters.

So, too, was Charles Ho. Charles gave me the best thing that a newspaper owner can give an editor and publisher: freedom to run the paper I wanted and the resources to do it.

Finally, I hope you all will give your full support to Ivan Tong as he takes The Standard to the next stage in its long history. The Standard has a great future. It's up to all of you to make it happen.

With best wishes for every continued success,

Of course, The Standard may have a great future, but Mr Clifford's future will involve impeding it. And from what I can gather, he's made a good start.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:32
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February 04, 2006
All change at SCMP

The SCMP has poached The Standard's Mark Clifford and David Armstrong is completely gone:

The South China Morning Post has appointed Mark Clifford as editor-in-chief, effective April 1, SCMP Group chairman Kuok Khoon Ean announced yesterday. At the same time, David Armstrong has decided to step down as director, editorial, of the Post from March 1, in order to focus his time on the Bangkok Post, where he has held the position of deputy chief executive officer since May 1 last year.

Mr Clifford joins the Post from The Standard, where he has been publisher and editor-in-chief since January 2004. Previously, he was Asia regional editor at BusinessWeek, where he worked from 1995 to 2003. He started his career in Asia at the Far Eastern Economic Review in 1987 and held a number of posts, including business editor, before leaving the magazine in 1995.

Has Mr Kuok realised how far the SCMP has slipped and what a serious competitor the far smaller Standard is becoming? And what changes will Mr Clifford introduce? Interesting times...

Updated reading

* Fons comments on the decline of the SCMP over the past 10 yeatrs.
* Amy Gu has an insider's perspective.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:28
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January 10, 2006
Salaam Al-Alaikum, Bob

The People's Daily Online had a rather amusing editorial about America's top leadership convening a conference to push the teaching of 'critically-needed' languages at the primary and secondary schools. They are: "Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Farsi, Russian and Urdu."

Preparing kids early for anti-terrorism operations! The primary justifications for the focus on langugage instruction, according to the People's Daily is military and intelligence (hence the editorial's title, "Foreign Languages, Security and Anti-Terrorism"), although it grudgingly admitted that cultural affinity and friendship might play a role.

Nevertheless, despite the implicitly cynical tone of the piece, it remained very polite and respectful of President Bush (as Xinhua journalists are trained to be!) until the last paragraph, which suddenly erupts into becoming a violent turn of the knife:

However, Bush may have neglected two facts noticed by all: one is that most of the 9/11 terrorists and London bombers once studied and lived in the West for many years, which seemed didn't help to change their view on America and other western countries; the other is, anti-America sentiment, rather than language barrier, is more caused by preferential policies and double standards the United States has been pushing in the Arabic world.

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[boomerang] Posted by HK Dave at 15:51
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» The Jawa Report links with: Morning Cup-O-Peas (Religion of Peace Update)

November 02, 2005
Five morals

Singapore's former Prime Minister has taken another leaf out of the China book and said that there can be such a thing as too free a press. The SCMP:

Former prime minister Goh Chok Tong has defended Singapore's pro-government media industry from international criticism, saying a liberal press is not necessarily good for every country...Lee Hsien Loong, said Singapore's government and economic performance proved the city-state's system worked.

"Western liberals often argue that press freedom is a necessary ingredient of democracy and that it is the fourth estate to check elected governments, especially against corruption," he said in a speech on Monday night. "But a free press by western standards does not always lead to a clean and efficient government or contribute to economic freedom and prosperity."

The article doesn't mention if he provided examples to support this last statement, but I doubt it. Singapore was ranked 140th out of 167 countries for press freedom, while China was 159th (and Hong Kong 39th). As if to back up the ex-Prime Minister, the SCMP notes China's enlightened policy to coverage of bird flu:
ontrols over reporting on bird flu outbreaks have been tightened, despite Beijing's pledges to employ "complete openness" in the fight against the potentially catastrophic virus.

In a recently issued directive, the Publicity Department ordered newspapers to seek approval from the authorities before publishing any reports on new outbreaks of bird flu and any animal or human deaths which result...

Apart from the reporting of outbreaks and any deaths they cause, news about an exercise to prepare for the closure of ports in the event of human-to-human transmission of H5N1 has also been kept under wraps. Authorities were wary that news of the drill could spark speculation that human cases had been reported, according to government sources.

This stands in stark contrast to what the Secretary General of ASEAN was saying just yesterday: that Asian countries need to be open about bird flu news. It also contradicts comments by disease control director Qi Xiaoqiu on openness over bird flu. But remember, a free press is not necessarily does not always lead to a clean and efficient government or contribute to economic freedom and prosperity.

As a vote of thanks to Singapore, it appears PBoC's Huijin Investments has rejected Singapore's state-owned Temasek Holdings from taking a 10% stake in Bank of China (although Bloomberg contradicts the Caijing Magazine report). Why the rejection? The SCMP again:

"Huijin is BOC's major shareholder and at present it does not agree with Temasek becoming a strategic investor," a senior China Banking Regulatory Commission official told the South China Morning Post...The eight-member board of directors at Huijin, which controls 78.15 per cent of BOC, voted to reject the deal because Temasek's investments were seen as excessive, according to a report in Caijing magazine...

"What the government wants to do by allowing foreign strategic investors is to bring in the products, the management skills and the banking technology, and Temasek is not actually a bank," said Frank Gong, the chief economist at JP Morgan. "Temasek clearly doesn't bring as much to the table as Bank of America and Royal Bank of Scotland," added ABN Amro banking analyst Simon Ho, referring to the two banks' investments in China Construction Bank and BOC, respectively. "It brings a lot of money but not banking technology per se."

That's what not having an open press gets you.

Meanwhile in soon-to-be-police-state-for-a-week Hong Kong, an example of press freedom gone wrong. Again the SCMP:

Journalists adopting unethical tactics to pursue stories are ruining press freedom and destroying the credibility of the media, industry representatives warned yesterday. The accusations came after two reporters from a Hong Kong-based publication allegedly broke into Canto-pop star Gigi Leung Wing-kei's room in China World Hotel in Beijing last month while she was there to attend a Ferragamo fashion show...

Tam Chi-keung, vice-chairman of the Journalists' Association and convenor of its ethics committee, condemned media members who worked "under the umbrella of press freedom but were actually destroying it".

And you thought Western paparazzi were bad. At least you know in Hong Kong your personal data and privacy are well protected by the mis-named Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data. Right? Ummm...the SCMP one more time:
A privacy watchdog has found no reasonable grounds to launch an investigation into the disclosure of e-mail subscribers' information by Yahoo! that led to the imprisonment of a mainland journalist.

Commissioner Roderick Woo Bun told a special Legco panel meeting on information technology and broadcasting yesterday that Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) had only disclosed information related to an office of a Chinese newspaper. He said that according to a verdict of the Changsha Intermediate People's Court in Hunan , "the information disclosed by Yahoo! ... to mainland authorities was only about the Contemporary Business News office in Hunan, which is not personal data".

Calling Rebecca MacKinnon.

To sum up: free press is bad for you, agreeing with China won't get you a piece of their banks, being a celebrity sucks, China learnt nothing from SARS and your email isn't private. Welcome to the Asian Century.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:20
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» Imagethief links with: The Asian Exception: Singapore Rejects a Free Press
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October 16, 2005
Torture Under The Radar

Marty Lederman and CT's Henry Farrell are putting out the alarm over Senator Ted Stevens' attempted "augmentation" of the McCain Amendment, concerning US military and government policy on the legality of torture. featuring a carve-out for the CIA.

A recent Congressional Quarterly article, reprinted here, reports Stevens -- who would "lead the Senate's conferees" -- as saying that "he can support McCain's language if it's augmented with guidance that enables certain classified interrogations to proceed under different terms." "'I'm talking about people who aren't in uniform, may or may not be citizens of the United States, but are working for us in very difficult circumstances,' Stevens said. 'And sometimes interrogation and intimidation is part of the system.'"

What this barely veiled statement means is that Senator Stevens will support inclusion of the McCain Amendment in the final bill only once it has been "augmented" to exempt the CIA from the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. (Stevens's reference to persons who "may not be citizens of the United States, but are working for us" suggests that he also intends to include a carve-out for foreign nationals acting as agents of the CIA, such as the team of the CIA-sponsored Iraqi paramilitary squads code-named Scorpions.) If Stevens (read: Cheney) is successful in this endeavor, and if the Congress enacts the Amendment as so limited, it will be a major step backwards from where the law currently stands. This can't be overemphasized: If Stevens is successful at adding his seemingly innocuous "augment[ation]," it would make the law worse than it currently is.

Those wishing to learn all the details of why this is so are encouraged to read my previous posts (particularly those of January 8, 12, 18 and 25, and May 11) about how the Administration has construed numerous federal laws to make certain that the CIA is permitted to engage in cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment -- i.e., to engage in all forms of coercive interrogation short of the small category of conduct denominated "torture." Here's a quick synposis of why the Stevens "CIA carve-out" would make matters worse, the basic gist of which is this: Although the McCain Amendment would helpfully clarify and reaffirm some of the law applicable to military interrogations, it would not impose any substantive limitations on the Armed Forces that are not already in current law. The McCain Amendment would, however, emphatically reject the Administration's view that the CIA may engage in cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in certain locations outside the U.S. -- a very significant development, but one that the Stevens "augmentation" would eviscerate.

Farrell goes on to pound his fist into the table: "It’s quite disgusting that the US mainstream press isn’t paying any real attention to what’s happening here. The US is on the verge of a momentous choice, between turning away (at least in part) from some of the vicious abuses of the last couple of years, or giving them the green flag. It shouldn’t be left up to a blogging law professor to tell us what’s going on."

For what it's worth, Andrew Sullivan railed against this measure on Real Time with Bill Maher. But, neither that cable show, nor Sullivan, a Republican blogger and currently an editor at TNR, are mainstream.

Lederman also lists scores of links related to this issue.

For those who don't know how to contact a US Congressional official, click here.

Cross-Posted at Barbarian Envoy

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[boomerang] Posted by Infidel at 11:55
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September 20, 2005
Tough times for newspapers

Clearly it's desperate days in the newspaper world. Last week the Asian Wall Street Journal (AWSJ) set up a booth offering cut price access to the paper and WSJ.com. This morning at Pacific Coffee there are free International Herald Tribune's and an offer of 2 weeks free delivery, with a stack of IHT's begging to be taken. Walking into the office, the AWSJ stand has morphed in a stack of free copies of today's edition, a pile that has remained static and high for most of the day.

At the same time Ian Lamont discusses his recent op-ed in the best locally produced English-language daily in East Asia* on the potential power of the internet and mobile phones amongst China's citizenry. Ian was paid a freelance fee that works out to about $200. I'm assuming that's US dollars, not HK dollars. With the typical mix of low quality op-ed pieces and cut-and-paste jobs from various syndicates or "big papers" on the SCMP's pages, that sounds like money for jam. There's plenty of good blogs out there (many of which I link to) which give you better and clearer analysis from people on the ground...for free. Note that this isn't having a go at Ian...his piece was the exception that proves the rule.

What's happening to newspapers? They can't even give them away for free.

* Incredibly, he's talking about the SCMP. Although what's the competition in that category?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:50
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