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FCC Congratulates Ressa, Muratov for Nobel Peace Prize

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong congratulates journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for winning the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded ”for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

The FCC applauds the Nobel Committee for its recognition of two courageous and deserving journalists, and for the message in defense of press freedom that the award sends.

Ressa, 58, is the co-founder and chief executive of Rappler, a digital news outlet in the Philippines. She has spoken at the FCC on several occasions, and is a tireless advocate of the free press and efforts to combat misinformation across the region and beyond. Links to her speeches and events at the club can be found below.

https://www.fcchk.org/fake-news-authoritarian-regimes-and-women-in-journalism-the-fccs-3rd-journalism-conference-leaves-no-stone-unturned/

https://humanrightspressawards.org/4756.html

Obituary: A Toast to Ian Verchere

By Philip Bowring

Ian Verchere, who died on 17 July in England aged 83, was one of the most agreeable and versatile journalists I have known. A restless enthusiasm and a wide variety of intellectual interests took him to many places, but he started out in Hong Kong doing his national service in the army in the late 1950s which led to his first job as a sports reporter on the South China Morning Post. Then it was off to La Sorbonne in Paris for two years to perfect his French, which led to a job as tour manager for Thomas Cook and a great deal of travel around Europe; he also spoke passable Spanish having studied in Barcelona.

The travel bug and journalism merged when the travel trade’s premier journal, Travel Trade Gazette, hired him. Ian then became the editor of Asia Travel Trade (ATT) following a chance meeting at a Singapore travel conference in 1972 with the publisher, bringing him back to Hong Kong. I arrived in the then-colony the following year and we quickly became friends. When he hired Murray Bailey to join him at ATT, Ian persuaded me to let Murray share my flat.

Ian was by then editing Insight, a monthly business-focused magazine which was, at least for a while, a journalistic success even if not a commercial one. Its in-depth look at business was a first for English-language monthly journalism in 1970s Hong Kong, a period that saw a great flowering of regional journalism with the launch of Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek and the Asian Wall Street Journal, among others. ATT and Insight gave him great opportunities to travel in the region and satisfy his wide and ever-growing interests.

From the May 1979 issue of The Correspondent magazine.

While living in Stanley, Ian also took up sailing a Hobie – a small catamaran which he launched off the beach at To Tei Wan. I was also living in Stanley, and also had a dinghy which I kept on the main beach, so I saw Ian quite often – though we did not make a habit of visiting the Smugglers Inn, then strictly for the squaddies from Stanley Fort.

In 1979 Bank of America lured Ian away from journalism with a job in Tokyo as vice president of corporate communications. He worked there for five years, then moved to New York. But journalism remained his first love and he eventually returned to London, working for Janes’ aviation magazines, the Economist Intelligence Unit and The European newspaper (which made a valiant but failed effort (1990-1998) to persuade English-language readers to learn more about what was happening in Europe). He also freelanced for numerous national dailies.

Ian went on do much sailing and travelling in Europe, the Caribbean, the US and across to Fiji. His adventures in Fiji led to a semi-autobiographical novel, Mugged in Tahiti, a tale of fun and games in the South Pacific. He also wrote Sailing into American History, a journey along the east coast’s Intracoastal Waterway which shed light on the early decades of the US.

The avid traveller was also very much at home in Buckinghamshire where I last saw him for lunch at a pub on the Grand Union canal. A memorial service was held at St Mary the Virgin, Ivinghoe, on 10 August 2021, followed by drinks at The Old Swan in Cheddington. I drank a toast to his memory at the Smugglers Inn.

Remembering Jonathan Mirsky

By Stephen Vines

Jonathan Mirsky was never a conventional journalist, nor conventional anything else. He died in London in September at the age of 88. 

For many years he was among the best known China watchers in the hacking business and won the British Press Awards International Reporter of the Year title in 1989 for his Tiananmen massacre coverage in The Observer

In Beijing he was “rewarded” with a savage beating at the hands of the police while covering the protests.

He later moved to The Times and was based in Hong Kong from 1993 to 1998. Towards the end, Mirsky fell out with the paper’s increasingly accommodating attitude towards Beijing ordered by owner Rupert Murdoch, who had big ambitions for expanding business in China.

Mirsky became a familiar figure at the FCC, where a lack of alcoholic consumption and an enthusiasm for discussion – not forgetting an impressive stock of Jewish jokes – marked him out as a not so run-of-the-mill member.

Mirsky, or Minsky as I called him after he was mistakenly identified as such by aristocratic Times Editor William Rees-Mogg, came to journalism through the circuitous route of academia and never quite lost his affection for the long form preferred in universities.

I got to know him back in the 1980s when we were both working for The Observer in London. He was an eccentric character in a newsroom where eccentricity was the norm. At the time I was engaged in the hard-edged area of labour reporting, while Mirsky was pontificating on China from afar. 

Infuriatingly to us hacks who thought that the only kind of reporting that mattered came from on-the-spot observation, he managed to produce superb and highly readable analysis which often outdid the work of Beijing-based correspondents.

When we were later both based in Hong Kong, we occasionally joined forces for interviews. It was an exasperating experience as Mirsky liked to be discursive and, with his genuine interest for people and what made them tick, would spend a great deal of time talking to the interviewees about their lives, while I was impatient to extract the news line of the day.

The Mirsky method often worked far better than the more conventional news-gathering approach, and he made firm friends with many of the people he interviewed. Among them were the Dalai Lama, who wrote to him shortly before his death, and Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last Governor – a combination of friendships likely to confirm the worst misgivings of an ever-suspicious government in Beijing.

Mirsky came from an aggressively secular intellectual leftist New York Jewish family and quickly graduated towards left-wing politics both as a student and an academic. It was this leftism that led him to become one of the early visitors to China in 1972 when the regime was keen to cultivate fellow travellers.

It would however be inaccurate to describe Mirsky as an apologist for the regime, because a sharp eye for the reality of Mao’s China and an uncontainable independence of mind defied such a simple characterisation.

In later years, most especially after Tiananmen, he became a prominent critic and was banned from entering the PRC. To describe Mirsky as being somehow “anti-China” would be a gross misconception because he had a deep love of all things Chinese and almost certainly a deeper knowledge of China’s culture and history than many of the most avid “patriots” who flaunt their love of the nation these days.

Above all Jonathan Mirsky was a mensch. It’s a Yiddish term that covers everything from friendship to humour to kindness yet is still inadequate to convey the true nature of the man.

HKJA Statement Responding to Security Secretary

The FCC has been following with concern remarks by the Secretary for Security regarding the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the city’s largest union for working journalists. The secretary’s remarks questioned the details of HKJA’s membership rolls. The HKJA has responded to the secretary’s remarks with the following statement, which the FCC is republishing. The FCC expresses its support for all working journalists during an increasingly challenging time in Hong Kong’s media environment:

In response to media enquiries about our membership and the Secretary for Security’s comments on Wednesday, the HKJA would like to make the following comments:

As of 15 September 2021 at 2pm, HKJA has 486 current members. They include 331 full members, 22 associate members, 34 public relations members, 56 student members, and 43 retired or permanent members. The numbers of our membership fluctuate as the Association processes new applications and renewals daily.

In response to media enquiries on the number of our members employed by specific media outlets, we would like to note that our members come from a large number of media organisations. Each individual membership lasts one year and members are required to renew their membership by the end of the year. If the media outlet where a member works has closed down, or if the member has left the media industry, they will not be able to renew their membership. The details on membership eligibility are available on our website’s membership application section, and are stated in our charter.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Security Chris Tang today said HKJA may “assuage the public’s doubts” by publishing our membership list “without disclosing personal information.” We are baffled by the Secretary’s apparently illogical suggestion. HKJA hopes the Secretary could understand that our members’ employment is part of their personal information. We are therefore unable to decipher how we could possibly make public the media outlets where our members are employed, without also disclosing their personal data at the same time.

We would like to reiterate that under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, HKJA may not disclose members’ personal data without their expressed consent. Any suggestion to make our membership and their employers public in order to “assuage doubts” would appear to incite a breach of the Ordinance.

Hong Kong Journalists Association
15 September 2021

就傳媒查詢有關本會會員事務,及保安局局長的言論,本會有回覆如下:

截至2021年9月15日下午2時,本會有效會員共有486人,其中包括正式會員331人、附屬會員22人、公關會員34人,學生會員56人,另有退休會員及永久會員共43人。而本會每日均會處理續會、入會申請的事務,會員人數會不時變更,敬希注意。

就有傳媒查詢,個別傳媒機構在本會內的會員人數,本會會員來自多間傳媒機構,會籍有效期為一年,會員需要每年續會。如會員所任職的傳媒機構已經停業、或會員已經離開傳媒行業,則不能續會。有關本會的會員資格,可參閱本會網頁的會員申請須知及會章。

另外,就保安局局長鄧炳強今日表示,本會可在「撇除個人資料」下公布會員名單,以「釋除疑慮」。本會認為鄧炳強的建議邏輯混亂,令人百思不得其解。本會希望局長明白,會員所任職的傳媒機構,亦為其「個人資料」一部分,本會實在無法推敲出,如何在「撇除個人資料」下,公布會員「來自乜嘢媒體」。

本會亦在此重申,根據《個人資料(私隱)條例》規定,未經當事人同意,本會不能披露會員個人資料。若要求本會應公開會員名單或其所屬機構「以釋公眾疑慮」,實在有鼓吹本會違反《私隱條例》之嫌。

香港記者協會
2021年9月15日

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club Awards Clare Hollingworth Fellowships

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club Awards Clare
Hollingworth Fellowships
FELLOWS
Amy Sood
Amy Sood is joining AFP after recently earning her master’s degree from the University of Hong Kong’s journalism program. She has previously interned with CNN and NBC News.
Hillary Leung
Hillary Leung is an Associate Editor at Coconuts Hong Kong, where she covers everything from politics to social issues. She was previously a reporter for TIME magazine and an intern at news verification agency Storyful.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is pleased to announce that it has chosen Amy Sood and Hillary Leung as recipients of the third annual Clare Hollingworth Fellowship, named in honor of the preeminent and path-breaking journalist.
The panel of judges noted the winners offer clear potential as future leaders both within the FCC and the wider Hong Kong journalism community.
The Fellowship is focused on early-career journalists and current journalism school students in Hong Kong.
The open competition drew significant interest from a cross spectrum of applicants. The adjudicators noted the high standard of applicants and encouraged all to apply again next year.
For further information on the Clare Hollingworth Fellowship, please visit https://www.fcchk.org/clarehollingworth/.

Military Conflict in the South China Sea Remains an Unlikely Outcome – Justice Antonio T. Carpio

Tensions and territorial disputes in the South China Sea are unlikely to result in warfare because of the Philippines’ mutual defence treaty with the United States, said former Philippine Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio. 

“The Chinese know that they cannot afford to go to war with the Philippines,” Justice Carpio told FCC President Keith Richburg during a Zoom discussion on Monday night. “The last thing China would want is to give the US a legal excuse to intervene in the South China Sea dispute.”

Justice Carpio, who helped the Philippines win its landmark ruling at the Hague in July 2016, said that China’s strategy rests on intimidating other nations. He described the country’s mindset as “China will win the South China Sea without firing a single shot.”

He sharply criticised President Rodrigo Duterte’s comments regarding the South China Sea dispute during his final State of the Nation Address hours earlier. Duterte had reiterated his passive approach to the territorial conflict, asking “Do you want war against China?”

“We laugh at that because nobody’s talking of war in the South China Sea dispute,” Justice Carpio said. “That’s the reason we went to the Hague, because war is not an option.”

He said Duterte’s comments were misleading, and that the president has “become the spokesperson of China” by arguing that enforcing the ruling will lead to a military conflict. 

Duterte is currently finishing out his final term, and presidential elections are due in 2022, but Justice Carpio said he did not believe that the South China Sea issue or relations with China would be major issues for most Filipino voters.

Watch the full discussion here:

“In order to have a democracy, you must share a common set of facts” – Marty Baron

The proliferation of online disinformation sites purporting to be legitimate news has created an incredibly difficult and hostile environment for journalism, said Marty Baron, former executive editor of The Washington Post, in a discussion moderated by FCC President Keith Richburg. 

“Consumption of media is now more polarised than it probably ever has been, and that’s not a great result for us,” Baron said. “Because in order to have a democracy, you have to share a common set of facts.” 

He said that increased education around media literacy and journalists being more transparent about their reporting were both necessary steps to combat the unchecked spread of disinformation. 

Asked if President Trump had been successful in sowing distrust against the media, Baron said yes but acknowledged that Trump’s cries of ‘fake news’ had not been the sole cause. 

“Approval and trust in the media was declining well before that, but he accelerated and reinforced it,” Baron said. “Sadly, he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish, disturbingly so, and we’re going to be dealing with that for decades to come.” 

During the discussion, Baron was asked about Post reporter Felicia Sonmez’s suspension and ban from covering sexual assault stories, with viewer Wayne Ma submitting the question, “Do you regret those decisions, what was the original thinking behind them and what has the Post done to ensure such incidents don’t happen again?” 

Baron said he did not want to comment on the case specifically but added “I don’t have any regrets.” As he was talking to the FCC, Sonmez filed a lawsuit in Washington D.C. against the Washington Post and several individuals including Baron.

Watch the full discussion below:

Income Disparity, Environmental Concerns Biggest Challenges Facing Chinese Communist Party – Eric X. Li

China’s income disparity and environmental degradation are the biggest challenges currently facing the ruling Chinese Communist Party at the 100th anniversary of its founding, said Shanghai-based venture capitalist and political scientist Eric X. Li, who vigorously defended the party’s style of government while expressing doubts about liberal democracies around the world.

“Liberal societies should learn from the party state in China,” Li said. “The party state in China has been very good at self-criticism – that’s why they reinvent themselves. Liberal societies have been failing at that for decades.”

In a spirited Zoom webinar moderated by FCC President Keith Richburg, Li said the CCP had embarked on its third “reinvention” since winning power 72 years ago and transitioning to a government party and then embarking on an openness and reform policy in 1979. This latest reinvention, he said, is driven by a desire to tackle income inequality and achieve a more “balanced growth.” He added that a focus on repairing the environment was a second major priority.

He said that Western countries such as the United States need to be less arrogant, then went on to dismiss the suggestion that the CCP needs to legitimize its rule through elections or referendums because such processes have caused dysfunction and paralysis in liberal democracies.

“I think democracy needs a new set of measurements,” Li said. “I think democracy needs to be measured by outcome, not procedure.”

Asked why the CCP has little tolerance for dissent or criticism, Li countered that there is plenty of debate and difference of opinion in China, including among the party leadership. But he argued that the dissent found in liberal societies has no place in China.

“Just look at the countries that have it: they’re not being governed very effectively, they are polarized, their people hate each other, their media hate each other,” Li said. “We don’t want that.”

He also defended the more assertive, sometimes bombastic, stands by Chinese officials on social media — sometimes referred to as “Wolf Warrior diplomats” — saying Westerners were simply not used to Chinese standing up and loudly speaking back against criticism. 

“They’re seeing their country being demonized by Western politicians and media, and they’re reacting to it for the first time in many decades,” Lis said. “You’d better get used to it.”

Aside from issues of income inequality and the environment, Li argued the CCP needs to steer younger generations away from populism and nationalism toward “productive socialism” and “healthy patriotism.”

“If it can do this, it will deliver on the material and spiritual aspirations of China’s new generations and, as a result, stay in power for a very long time to come,” Li said. “Success is not assured, but I wouldn’t bet against it.”

Watch the full conversation:

Solidarity Amongst Journalists Needed as Apple Daily Closes – Brian Stelter

On the day that Apple Daily published its last edition following 26 years of operation, CNN’s Brian Stelter said in a webinar hosted by the FCC that journalistic solidarity is needed in challenging moments such as these. 

“Nothing unites journalists more than a threat against a newspaper or a publication or against journalism itself,” Stelter said. “Nothing unites this industry more than a moment like this.”

Speaking to FCC press freedom committee co-chair Eric Wishart, Stelter said that the shuttering of a newspaper like Apple Daily is something that resonates around the world and should be taken note of by an international audience.

“I would say solidarity is a critical component of this,” said Stelter, the anchor of Reliable Sources and author of the newly updated paperback version of Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth.

Asked if Apple Daily’s closure would resonate with people in the United States, he said that there would be some awareness but not enough, and that issues of press freedom in general deserve a bigger audience.

“We also have to tell the global story, that this is something that we’re seeing erosion [of] in many countries. All of us, including me, have to work on that,” said Stelter.

Watch the full conversation below:

FCC Expresses Deep Regret Over Closure of Apple Daily

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong wishes to express its deep regret at the announcement of the closure of Apple Daily.

Apple Daily has been a vibrant member of the Hong Kong media landscape for more than quarter of a century and a widely read source of information for many in the city.

The closure is a blow to the journalism community in Hong Kong and raises legitimate concerns over the future of press freedom in the city. It comes after government authorities froze its assets and arrested several top editors. 

The closure also has a major social impact and will leave hundreds of journalists, editorial production staff and other employees involved in the publication and distribution of the newspaper unemployed. 

The FCC calls on the Hong Kong media community to provide assistance for those now left jobless with the closure in finding new employment.

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