Category Archives : Media Watch


NEWS – HK Journalists Association Forms ‘Name & Shame’ Self-Censorship Watchdog

Little Eye on Big Media, Hong Kong

A multi-part series

‘Little Eye on Big Media’ Special Series: The Hong Kong Journalists Association has declared the past year in Hong Kong to be the “darkest for press freedom for several decades“. Their 2014 annual report, entitled ‘Press Freedom Under Siege’, was released today. It laments the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong as political tension increases between Beijing and the territory.

It also announced the formation of a ‘Self-censorship Monitoring Committee’ to act as a watchdog and investigate complaints of editorial interference by local media managers. The panel, composed of journalists, academics and lawyers, will name-and-shame outlets where incidents have been confirmed in order to increase public awareness of such cases.

Complaints may be submitted by reporters, editors, photographers, commentators or columnists within 12 months of an incident arising.

The report notes the brutal attack on ex-Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau, the sacking of an outspoken talk-show cost Li Wei-Ling, advertising boycotts of pro-democracy titles and the government’s refusal to issue HKTV with a free-to-air licence.

It also notes how Beijing has lectured media representatives on the need to increase their coverage of the anti-Occupy Central movement.

Hong Kong Journalists Association


POLITICS – SCMP: A Much-Needed Institution Missing A Golden Opportunity 2

Little Eye on Big Media, Hong Kong

A multi-part series

‘Little Eye on Big Media’ Special Series: [Part 2: Op-ed, click here for part 1] There is no other newspaper on Earth better positioned than the South China Morning Post to provide coverage of this century’s most important story – China’s rapid rise. Historically, the Post has been the ‘newspaper of record’ for Hong Kong and is better placed than anyone else to observe and analyse Beijing’s growing power and influence. It has over 110 years of experience, is located in the one corner of China that does not restrict the press, and has a newsroom full of multi-lingual journalistic talent to call upon.

Weak spots
The newspaper has, rightly, bagged many awards for excellence in reporting but, like any other media group, has certain pressure points. Critically, for the SCMP – its weakness is often China. The SCMP’s Malaysian owners have extensive business interests across the mainland and stakes in Yurun Food Group, Shangri-la Hotels, Kerry Properties and several transport companies. This, alongside suspicions of direct – or indirect – pressure from Beijing and ambitions to expand across the border, has led to a well-documented watering-down of its criticism of China.

Whilst superb critiques of mainland affairs are still printed every week, any irregularities are alarming as Hong Kong has dropped 27 places since 2010 to 61st on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. It sits at 74th on the Freedom House ranking, now deemed ‘partly free’, behind Mali. Earlier this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists produced a special report this year on Hong Kong’s “cancerous” spate of self-censorship, making reference to the SCMP. Amidst violent attackscyber attacksboycotts and threats, we may be left with only the Apple Daily, a tabloid, as the last paper willing to scrutinise Beijing.

South China Morning Post (SCMP) covers

Worth saving. SCMP through the decades.

Wasted opportunity? 
But the SCMP has a choice and, perhaps, a golden business opportunity. It could leverage the talent, reputation and unique place it has in China to position itself as the ‘go-to’ international news wire for trusted news from the mainland. Instead of relying upon state-run news agencies, media organisations around the world could subscribe to SCMP’s dependable news feed, paying a premium for independent reporting, free from interference.


MEDIA WATCH – Exclusive: SCMP Staff Clash with Editors Over Tiananmen Censorship 15

Little Eye on SCMP

A multi-part series

For context, please refer to ‘Editor’s Note‘ below and Part 2: Op-Ed.

‘Little Eye on Big Media’ Special Series: An investigation by Hong Wrong has uncovered a culture of self-censorship by reporters as well as editorial interference from senior staff at the South China Morning Post. It has also been revealed how staff resisted an attempt to scrap an acclaimed multimedia project on the Tiananmen Square massacre in the final moments before publication.

Whilst no-one at the Post was willing to speak on record, the blog interviewed several current staff members on the condition of anonymity. Journalists complained of poor morale, a high staff turnover and a rise in instances of sensitive stories being scrapped, diluted, ‘buried’ or removed – all under the leadership of Wang Xiangwei, the Post’s first mainland-born editor.

The blog learned that most articles are still published without hindrance. The degree to which a report may be distorted depends on the sensitivity of the topic, the time frame and which editors are involved. One source spoke of how some reporters writing critical pieces involving the mainland exercised an “excess of caution”, bypassing what they knew to be a better angle for fear of conflict with the management. However, the blog was also told that, in some instances, sub-editors attempt to moderate skewed stories before publication.

On other occasions, pieces that feature criticism of the local and national governments may travel back-and-forth between writers and senior editors, who will adjust how the story is framed and insist on more ‘balance’ or emphasis to highlight the authorities’ point of view. Controversial stories may be ‘buried’ deep within the print edition, or never make it past the online edition. In some cases, stories have been removed months later – without public explanation – from the website.

There was no evidence that staff were being formally instructed on what to report on, but Wang and deputy editor Tammy Tam allegedly “discourage” writers from pursuing certain stories, leading some to fear for their jobs or threaten to quit.


NEWS – Beijing Orders Its Media to Delete HK Poll News As Almost 750,000 Vote

China’s powerful State Council Information Office has ordered mainland media outlets to “find and delete” all references to Hong Kong’s unofficial democracy referendum. The directive from censorship chiefs, below, was leaked to the University of California’s journalism department.

China propaganda

The directive gives an insight into how explicit such instructions can be. It was coupled with an order for Guangdong TV broadcasts to block signals from Hong Kong.

HKU’s Weiboscope project also reveals that related internet searches have also been blocked. 


MEDIA WATCH – Standard Chartered & HSBC Halt Adverts in Pro-Democracy Newspaper

A new multi-part series

‘Little Eye on Big Media’ Special Series: Part 1 HSBC and Standard Chartered have been forced by Beijing to stop advertising in Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily. According to Mark Simon, a senior executive at the newspaper, the two British banks were pressured by mainland authorities to withdraw advertising from the tabloid worth around US$7.6million annually. He called the move “Putin-esque” whilst HSBC told Foreign Policy that the decision was “commercial“. Standard Chartered told The New York Times that it was a “marketing decision“.

The banks stopped advertising last September and the story was first reported in late May. At the time of writing, it had still not been reported by the South China Morning Post.

Jimmy Lai

Jimmy Lai

Jimmy Lai’s paper, founded in 1995, is often critical of the local and national government and played an integral part in the 2003 protests that led to Hong Kong’s first post-colonial leader, Tung Chee-hwa, stepping down. More recently, the Apple Daily was first to publish an expose on the wealth of the Communist Party elite.

Lai continues to donate millions of dollars to local pro-democracy causes.


ACTIVISM – ‘They Can’t Kill Us All’: Protesters Unite for Press Freedom 3

Thousands gathered at government headquarters today after Ming Pao’s ex-editor Kevin Lau Chun-to was hospitalised following a hit-and-run ‘meat cleaver’ attack this week. Below are photos from the protest at Tamar site…

The H0ng Kong Journalist’s Association organised the rally weeks after Hong Kong’s press freedom rating was downgraded and a controversial Commercial Radio host was sacked without explanation.

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BLOG – South China Morning Post Buys Out HK Magazine 4

The SCMP Group has bought out Asia City Media Group, after months of speculation. By July, the group will have acquired all of the assets of Asia City in HK. This includes HK Magazine, which was founded in 1991, as well as The List, Where Chinese and their online outlets…

South China Morning Post

Asia City is expected to continue managing their titles independently, though a board of SCMP directors have been assigned to oversee the business. Greg Crandall will continue as Asia City Media’s country manager.


BLOG – Mirror of Paul Mooney’s SCMP Whistle-blower Article 8

As the original article seems to be down, or removed, below is a temporary mirror of Paul Mooney’s important whistle-blower piece about censorship at the South China Morning Post…

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On April 22, Wang Xiangwei, the new editor-in-chief of the South China Morning Post,informed me that my contract with the newspaper would not be renewed when it expired on May 21. I can’t say I was surprised.

Sitting in a hotel restaurant in Hong Kong on a hot April day, Wang stared down at the table as the conversation began, seemingly unwilling to make eye contact. After a few minutes of chit chat, I asked him directly about my contract. He fidgeted and said he would not be able to renew it due to budget problems.

To me it was clear that this was a political decision. For seven months, he had basically blocked me from writing any China stories for the newspaper. During that period, I only had two stories in the China pages of the newspaper–one on panda bears and one on compensation for AIDS victims. Some two dozen other story suggestions went unanswered by the China Desk–in one case a story was approved, but the editor told me Wang had overruled him. A half-dozen emails to Wang pleading to write more for the newspaper went unanswered.

It certainly was not about money. Following my departure, Wang hired a spate of new young reporters, many apparently from the mainland. And if there were budget problems, why was I chosen to be let go? Obviously, there were newer people at the newspaper than myself. I had been on contract for two years, and wrote my first article for the newspaper in 1990, some 22 years ago. And I’d won 10 awards for my reporting for the newspaper, more than any other staff reporter.