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Journalists and diplomats: The challenges of reporting side by side from the front line

The close but often fraught relationship between journalists and diplomats on the front line of war was discussed by diplomat and author Dante Paradiso at the March 30 club lunch.

The two have very similar roles in that they are the bearers of first hand information on what is happening on the ground, he said. However, they are driven by two very different objectives: the journalist is part of a business model, whereas the diplomat is informing policy process.

Paradiso, author of The Embassy: A Story of War and Diplomacy, explained that while journalists are obviously keen to get breaking news out to their editors, then the world, this is often at odds with the way a diplomat – who is passing information to the government’s security services in order to make longer term strategy decisions in war torn areas – operates.

If you’re witnessing a human rights abuse or state-sponsored terrorism, your reporting can force decision-making.

But the relationship is also beneficial to both sides: “We exchange information… We can get messages out through the media, and the media can get headlines from us. There’s a transactional nature to these exchanges,” Paradiso said.

Dante Paradiso revealed the ups and downs in the relationship between journalist and diplomat in war zones. Photo: Sarah Graham Dante Paradiso revealed the ups and downs in the relationship between journalist and diplomat in war zones. Photo: Sarah Graham

The continuous flow of information from both the press and people working the policy is vital. The exchange of information itself between the two can be imperative, he added. “If you’re witnessing a human rights abuse or state-sponsored terrorism, your reporting can force decision-making.”

He said in highly intense crises, for example bullets in the street, often journalists and diplomats work quite closely together. There was also an element of responsibility in keeping reporters safe, Paradiso said, “the ability to exchange information about physical safety”. This would often lead to shelter being provided for journalists in danger.

Drawing on experiences from Liberia, Afghanistan and other conflicts, Paradiso highlighted the need for operational safety versus the media’s need for breaking news. He told how in some circumstances the need to report what was happening at a particular moment could often put troops and journalists in danger. For example, the shelling of a U.S. compound is big news, he said, but in reporting this the enemy was being given confirmation that they’d hit their target, so could continue the attack.

Paradiso concluded that the dynamic between journalists and diplomats was incredibly important for physical transparency, safety and advocacy when it came to reporting the facts of events in war zones, both to news room editors and a the chain of command of a diplomat.

Watch the talk:

Moonlight co-producer Andrew Hevia reveals next film project is a Hong Kong crime thriller

A crime thriller set in Hong Kong and featuring local actors is the next project for Andrew Hevia, co-producer of the Oscar-winning film, Moonlight.

Speaking at the March 27 club lunch, the young American revealed that the film is about a British-born Chinese photographer in the city who captures a crime on camera and becomes obsessed with solving it. The film is not yet in production but Hevia said he hoped to start shooting it within 12 months with Hong Kong actors in the key roles.

Award-winning co-producer Andrew Hevia at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham Award-winning co-producer Andrew Hevia at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham

In a talk to members on the Verandah, Hevia talked about how he became involved with Moonlight, which picked up the Best Picture award at this year’s Oscars. He also gave amusing insight into this year’s infamous Oscars debacle, where Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty wrongly announced favourite La La Land as the winner.

Hevia talked about how he got into film making and subsequently, as a 2015-2016 Fulbright Fellow, spent 10 months in Hong Kong. It was during that time he met commercial director Joshua Wong – with whom he is shooting the Hong Kong thriller – having gone to watch star Wars: The Force Awakens in the hope of meeting other fans of the movie that he could make friends with in the city.

Watch the Andrew Hevia Q&A:

Hong Kong Remembers in pictures: Rocking the FCC to raise funds for China Coast Community

Hong Kong Remembers was certainly a night not to forget.

Members were entertained with live music on every floor, from The Red Stripes, Miriam Ma & Hippogroove, Mary Jane, and Crimes Against Pop; plus a special appearance from Michael (Thomas) Jackson.

Here, we bring you the best photos of the night from Asiapix and Sarah Graham.

Income Statement – February 2017

Income Statement – February 2017

February 18, 2017 Board minutes

February 18, 2017 Board minutes

Charles Li: Hong Kong needs to help China unlock its wealth

Charles Li, CEO of HKEX, has high hopes for Hong Kong as a top global trading centre. Photo: Sarah Graham Charles Li, CEO of HKEX, has high hopes for Hong Kong as a top global trading centre. Photo: Sarah Graham

Hong Kong can thrive as a financial hub as long as it brings the world’s goods to China in order to unlock its wealth, according to Charles Li, who made the assertion as guest speaker at a club lunch.

The CEO of HKEX told guests on March 24 that, despite Hong Kong suffering from a ‘loss of faith in who we are’, he predicated a bright future for the city. But he said Hong Kong needed to become a fixed income derivatives centre and not just an equities centre if it wanted to become a top global trading hub.

He added that Hong Kong was now source of outbound rather than inbound investment for China. “It has too much money and doesn’t know what to do with it,” he said.

And he denied that HKEX was a stock market casino when asked by a Financial Times reporter about recent media reports of back door trading. Mr Li countered that the Hong Kong market was strong, adding that issues being reported in media are sometimes out of proportion. The reports called for stronger regulation to address market manipulation and volatility.

Open letter to C.Y. Leung appealing for digital media access to cover Hong Kong Chief Executive election

Dear Mr Leung,

Twelve journalists unions and news group urge you to give professional online-only media full access to government press activities and facilities in relation to the election of the Chief Executive on 26 March 2017.

Under the existing policy, those media are excluded from all official functions and denied entry to locations where elections will be held. Not only does this arrangement deviate from the government’s pledge of a fair, open and honest election, it is also against the press freedom promised in the Basic Law.

In this regard, we would stress that the Ombudsman had concluded in her December 6 finding that the Government has offered no convincing justification for its ban on online-only media from its press events. The Government is obliged to facilitate press access as part of the protection of press freedom stipulated in the Basic Law. Yet, the Ombudsman’s call for the lifting of the ban has yielded no result. Nor has there been any move towards accreditation of online media. In fact, there has been no discussion, whatever, with the industry in this regard.

With less than a week to go before the Election, the Information Services Department has provided no accreditation channel for the online-only media.

Given the significance of the Chief Executive election, such continued inaction is not only regrettable but also unreasonable. The press area, which will be located in the Hong Kong Convention Centre, should be spacious enough to include those journalists. Professional unions have already proposed different ways of accrediting journalists that are widely adopted by various authorities overseas.

Ignoring what has become an integral part of life worldwide is not in anyone’s interests, least of all the younger generation to whom the online medium is their sole access to the wider world.

Looking forward to your favourable reply, we remain.

Hong Kong Journalists Association   

Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong

HK Press Photographers Association     

Independent Commentators Association

Next Media Trade Union

Ming Pao Staff Association

RTHK Programme Staff Union 

Initium Media

Stand News

Local Press


Hong Kong Free Press

PEN Hong Kong launches crowdfunding bid to create Hong Kong Handover 20th anniversary book

Writers from Hong Kong will contribute to an anthology marking the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong Handover this year. Writers from Hong Kong will contribute to an anthology marking the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong Handover this year.

PEN Hong Kong plans to publish an anthology of non-fiction essays, short stories, poems and cartoons by some of Hong Kong’s brightest literary and creative minds to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from Great Britain to China.

It has launched a crowdfunding campaign on FringeBacker and is appealing for your support.

Each piece in the collection will offer a unique and personal commentary on the city’s past, present, and future. The book’s working title is Hong Kong 20/20: Reflections On A Borrowed Place.

Donate money here.

Among FCC members contributing are:
Steve Vines (journalist, writer and broadcaster)
Harry Harrison (SCMP cartoonist)
Ilaria Maria Sala (journalist/writer)
Kate Whitehead (journalist/writer)
Vaudine England (journalist)
As well as esteemed Hong Kong writers and artists, including: 
Jason Ng (Writer/Umbrellas in Bloom)
Joshua Wong (student activist)
Tammy Ho Lai-ming (poet and co-founding editor of Asian Cha)
Margaret Ng (barrister, political, writer)
Oscar Ho (activist and writer)
To make this truly a Hong Kong work, the anthology will be published in two editions – Chinese and English. It needs support to fund high quality literary translators. Any extra money raised will go toward funding book-related events, such as public forums featuring the contributing artists and authors.
PEN Hong Kong hopes to raise HK$180,000 by June 19.

Own a unique Harry cartoon and help the FCC support the China Coast Community charity

He’s Hong Kong’s most famous illustrator whose satirical take on local politics is a mainstay of the city’s biggest English-language newspaper.

And now you can own an original drawing by cartoonist Harry Harrison by bidding in the FCC’s online auction.

Especially for the FCC, Harry has created this special cartoon reflecting one of the most topical subjects of the hour – the upcoming Chief Executive election. This original cartoon, signed by the man himself, will be a lasting memory of another chapter in Hong Kong’s history.

At the time of publication of this article, the bidding was at $9,000.

Bid for this unique Harry Harrison cartoon. Bid for this unique Harry Harrison cartoon.

Also up for grabs are a sumptuous dinner at The China Club, helicopter flights, a stay in Hong Kong’s newest hotel, not to mention a tour of Hong Kong in a vintage Rolls-Royce followed by tea at The Peninsula are some of the ‘lifestyle’ items available, complemented by a unique collection of items donated by our FCC members, including photographs of some of the momentous events of recent Hong Kong history.

The auction site is now open and you can view the items available and place your bids at

Registering on the site and placing bids is easy so please take a look and use this opportunity to help our nominated charity, The China Coast Community. As with the raffle (tickets available at reception), all funds raised will go to our chosen charity thanks to the phenomenal generosity of our FCC members and friends who have donated the items.

Me and the Media: Freelance business writer George W. Russell

George W. Russell main George W. Russell. Photo: Harry Harrison

George W. Russell, an FCC member since 1988, combines freelance writing (mostly about business) with the pursuit of his interest in the history and practice of journalism as a part-time research assistant at the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre.

Previously: Variety, Newsday, The Australian.

What made you want to work in media?

A favoured aunt taught me to read as a toddler, using the pages of The Herald, a defunct Melbourne evening daily. So my literacy was founded on the news of the day. I was a typical teenager with no clue about the future and I’d done badly in my final year of high school. I was rescued from having to make further decisions by a delightful old hack named Pat Tennison, who ran the cadet course at Southdown Press in Melbourne (part of the Murdoch empire). He saw something no one else could see and offered me job as a copy boy on The Australian.

What has been a career high point?

I’ve never been a true hard news reporter, or a proper foreign correspondent. I’ve kind of worked in trade and other fringe media. But I have fond memories of working for Variety, the US showbiz bible, putting in 20 hours a day editing a daily newspaper at the Cannes film festival and fuelled by pizza and rosé, and driving the Mac page files at high speed along the A8 in a Renault minivan to the printers in Nice. My present life is a high point, too. It’s my third time in Hong Kong and it’s great here with a family I love and helping out at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong. It’s inspiring to work with the students and learn new things about media myself.

What has been a low point?

There have been so many. It’s not so much burned bridges as a conflagration of crossings. Another low is when a title has closed on me, and there have been a few of those. Another was thinking I could survive as a freelance editor in Seattle in the 1990s. It was my first experience of watching the dying print media in a small, insular city. I was sleeping in an abandoned car at one point. Another was when a man named Stanley Asimov at Newsday on Long Island who, after I’d done a week’s tryout on the copy desk, suggested I consider a career outside journalism.

What career advice would you give to your younger self?

Accumulate more and better skills and experience. Look beyond what’s happening in your own personal clique and pay more attention to the big media picture. It’s important to be able to readjust your own settings to better fit the market, especially as a freelancer. Go to seminars and conferences, talk to as broad cross-section of society as you can. And I can’t think of how much I’ve made from selling stories that were inspired by an FCC lunch speaker.

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