Good news 'propaganda' a cause for concern

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 June, 1997, 12:00am

I was pleased to read that the world will be able to access more 'good news' about Hong Kong during the handover ceremonies thanks to the Association for the Celebration of the Reunification of Hong Kong with China.

If you're concerned that media coverage isn't going your way, it always helps to try to buy off a few of the poorer foreign reporters.

But I was a little surprised by Rita Fan's expressed surprise at allegations that the 'alternative' coverage does not constitute propaganda.

According to Ms Fan, the association's publicity task force convener, propaganda 'is usually a privilege reserved for government'.

Since the association is a non-governmental organisation, she says, by definition its output is not propaganda. Putting aside the obvious fact that Ms Fan, as president of the provisional legislature, is effectively a powerful member of the incoming government, it should be pointed out that propaganda is a tool available to anyone - not just the representatives of an insecure government.

Propaganda, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means 'an organised programme of publicity or selected information, etc, used to propagate a doctrine' - a definition which sounds quite applicable to the association's 'programme' of 'good news'.

Many have already come to the conclusion that the transfer of sovereignty is good news.

The association's propaganda and Ms Fan's role in promoting biased coverage while refusing to identify it as such, can hardly do much to win the trust of those interested in Hong Kong's future and those able to come to their own conclusions about it - and it might just have the opposite effect.