Red tape and chaos leave media fuming
Daniel Ren in Shanghai
Rigid bureaucracy and chaotic management left hundreds of journalists planning to cover the World Expo fuming yesterday afternoon, with dozens waiting for passes only hours before the opening ceremony.
Complaints about mismanagement were frequently heard at the media accreditation centre in the morning, with two Zhejiang Daily reporters flying into a rage and yelling at a press official after a vain one-week wait for press credentials.
Two South China Morning Post reporters were given 'emergency cards' yesterday rather than press passes, despite completing accreditation procedures two weeks ago.
They were unable to pick up their cards on Wednesday because officials at the media accreditation centre said the passes were still being processed. Registered members of the media were supposed to have been able to collect their passes from Monday. As a result, the Post reporters missed a press conference given by the expo organiser on Wednesday. They were not allowed access to the news centre without their press cards.
They were told to return to the centre yesterday, but Chi Mingang, an official in charge of media accreditation, said he could not guarantee the cards would be ready by then.
An official told one Post reporter yesterday that his card was ready, insisting that he had seen it. 'You must go to the reception counter for mainland media to fetch it,' he said. 'It must be there.' Fifteen minutes later the official admitted he had been mistaken and agreed to give an 'emergency card' to the reporter.
Karen Lai, a co-ordinator with RTHK, said the broadcaster had received only three cards even though it had registered 10 staff to cover the expo.
At the information desk for Hong Kong and Macau journalists, a volunteer said about 30 cards were not ready. Frank Hollmann, the Shanghai correspondent for German newspaper Mainpost, said: 'I think we are just among dozens of foreign media staff who haven't got them.'
Tan Qiong, a reporter with Jiangxi Television, said: 'Our plan was to cover the event between today and May 4, but I have yet to get a reply from them about when I can get the card. I've had a bad feeling that this business trip to Shanghai would end up wasting our time and effort.'
Expo builders and suppliers have also complained about logistical mayhem that is causing them long delays waiting for security checks or approval from the authorities.
This week, there has been just one prompt reaction from the accreditation centre received by Post reporters. 'I forgot to note down the serial number on the emergency card given to you,' a reporter was told on the phone, just two minutes after leaving the centre. 'Could you tell me the number on your card?'