Editor sacked at Hong Kong newspaper same day as Panama Papers sourced story appears
Morning Brief: Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, is featured in extensive interview in The South China Morning Post, the paper he acquired last year
With the release of The Panama Papers, the millions of leaked documents from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, one wondered if someone, somewhere would lose their job as newspapers around the globe began publishing stories of the government officials who owned offshore accounts in order to hide their wealth. Well, at least one person had, but they are an editor at one of papers reporting the findings.
The same day the Hong Kong-based daily Ming Pao reported on the government officials with ties to the Panama firm at the heart of the document leak, devoting its entire front page to the story, an editor was dismissed, claiming the sacking was a cost savings measure. Keung Kwok-yuen was the paper’s associate editor.
“[We] question whether the company was using the reason of ‘saving resources’ on the surface, but actually punishing staff members who have different opinions on editorial issues,” The Ming Pao Staff Association said in a statement released to Facebook.
Recently a survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme found that Hong Kong residents were increasingly concerned with press freedoms in their country, but also more satisfied with their local media.
“Hong Kong Journalist Association Chairperson Sham Yee-lan told Ming Pao that the confidence towards press freedom has been shaken with incidents such as the case of the five missing booksellers. She urged the government to legislate to protect whistleblowers,” the newspaper reported.
The survey found that readers feared that newspapers were self-censoring due to government pressure.
“Many also reacted negatively to the purchase of English-language daily The South China Morning Post by Chinese e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba with 88 percent of journalists and 57 percent of the public believing that the buy-out threatened press freedom,” the Hong Kong Free Press said.
Coincidentally, the Chinese e-commerce mogul Jack Ma today was featured in an interview inside the newspaper he acquired, The South China Morning Post. In his extensive interview, Ma gave his views as to what would be expected from reporters, and how he saw the way both foreign and domestic media portray China and the outside world.
“Readers have the right to know what’s happening in China in a factual and objective way,” Ma said. I’m lucky that I have the opportunity to travel around the world. The more I come to know about the outside world’s perception of China, the more I feel there are all sorts of misunderstandings and, to a certain extent, people do not get the full picture from the media. A lot of foreigners have few opportunities to visit China, and a lot of Chinese people do not have the chance to go to Europe or to the West.”
“I believe the most important thing for the media is to be objective, fair and balanced,” Ma said, possibly unaware he was echoing the Fox new slogan. “We should not report something with preconceptions or prejudice. Sometimes people look at things purely from a Western or an Eastern perspective – that is one-sided. What the Post can do is to understand the big “why” behind a story and its cultural context. Western culture is scientific and tends to see things in black and white. The Eastern approach is like taichi – everything is in transition. The Post could help to explain this Eastern mentality to our readers better. They may not agree with the other side, but at least they can understand where the other side comes from.”
Ma promised not to interfere with the editorial operations of the paper, saying “I have neither the experience nor desire to interfere with the newsroom operation. I will not take part in the editorial decision-making. The media has its own professional rules and standards.”
Earlier this week Utah’s governor signed a resolution that proclaimed that the state had a health crisis, caused by pornography.
“We realize this is a bold assertion and there are some out there who will disagree with us,” Gov. Gary Herbert said when signing the resolution. “We’re here to say it is, in fact, the full-fledged truth.”
Among other claims, the resolution said that porn is “a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.”
One publisher has responded to the resolution. Hustler publisher Larry Flynt has said that in response to the resolution he would send copies of his magazine to lawmakers.
“The Utah Legislature is obviously confused about what constitutes a public health crisis, so I’ll send them our latest issue and they can see for themselves that we’re no danger to the public, only to the repressed,” Flynt said in a statement released to The Washington Times.
“In 1969 President Lyndon Johnson and the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography found that no evidence exists that exposure to explicit sexual materials cause any kind of criminal behavior,” Flynt said. “This report has been gathering dust for over 40 years, and Utah is only dragging out this issue now to satisfy religious zealots.”