Donald Tsang

Anson Chan attacks cult of spin

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 April, 2008, 12:00am

Legislator Anson Chan Fang On-sang criticised the government's 'growing cult of spin' yesterday.

In a speech in Singapore on media values, the former chief secretary said officials either shied away from the media completely, or were extremely keen to inform journalists of their new policies in order to ensure favourable reports. 'As a former civil servant, I know that many government officials will go to great lengths to avoid talking to the media - the fear of being tripped up into saying something which is wrong or indiscreet is immense,' Mrs Chan said in a keynote address at a news awards ceremony.

'At the other end of the spectrum is the growing cult of spin: instead of avoiding the media, the government instead tries to get in first with its own version and slant on events.'

Pan-democrats in particular have criticised the government for the selective leaking of information to pro-establishment newspapers to ensure favourable coverage of new policies and announcements.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has also come under fire for evading media scrutiny by commenting on sensitive issues through written statements only, avoiding further questions. Mr Tsang's apology after saying democracy could lead to a Cultural Revolution and his announcement of David Li Kwok-po's resignation from the Executive Council following allegations of insider dealing were both handled in this way.

Mrs Chan said press freedom could also be a double-edged sword since poor journalism could lead to misquotations and distortions.

However, she sympathised with the plight of journalists, and urged better pay and an improved profile and training. 'For the most part, our journalists work long hours, for low pay and little respect, with the result that turnover, particularly at the junior reporter level, is extremely high.'