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  • Dec 18, 2014
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Jake's View
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 October, 2013, 2:12am

Journalists out of line with Aquino

Press body should back off over ban at Apec meeting for shouting questions at Philippine president as if he were the family house boy


Jake van der Kamp is a native of the Netherlands, a Canadian citizen, and a longtime Hong Kong resident. He started as a South China Morning Post business reporter in 1978, soon made a career change to investment analyst and returned to the newspaper in 1998 as a financial columnist.

But the Hong Kong Journalists Association was unimpressed, reiterating that it was completely unacceptable for the Apec summit organisers to bar the journalists just because they questioned Aquino.

SCMP, October 8

I saw the video and I think the journalists' association should cool off on this one. Whether or not the Apec people over-reacted in response, the reporters who shouted "questions" at Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Sunday at the Apec meeting in Bali were out of line.

The video gave the distinct impression that they were deliberately baiting Aquino, particularly one man who shouted, "So you're ignoring the Hong Kong people, right?" It was the kind of comment you would expect on an American trash television show where everyone is rude, the host most of all.

It also shows up from time to time in media scrums here at home and the fact that the association did not seem to think it unusual is good evidence of how extensive press freedom really is in this town.

But is not the sort of thing to which journalism in Hong Kong should sink at international meetings.

Let association save its ire for officials who jail journalists … and who black out news

The rudeness stands out in this case because it was not so much directed at Aquino as at the elected president of a country of 100 million people, who was appearing in his official capacity. It is the office that matters here, more than the man, and the office deserves a measure of respect.

I have in mind US president Harry Truman's recollection of ticking off general Douglas MacArthur for deliberately coming late to a meeting: "I said, 'Now you look here … I don't give a good [profanity] what you do or think about Harry Truman but don't you ever again keep your commander-in-chief waiting. Is that clear?'"

The point is a particularly telling one in this case because many Filipinos suspect Hong Kong people of racism towards them. Whether this is a valid suspicion I shall leave others to debate but it certainly doesn't help matters to have representatives of the Hong Kong media address the president of the Philippines as if he were the family house boy.

This is offensive to the entire population of the Philippines. In these circumstances, Hong Kong people would do best to be even more circumspect than they ordinarily are about what they say. Let's not fan this flame.

To put it in further perspective, try to imagine what would have happened if these reporters had addressed the president of China in the same manner. We would all have been shrivelled up in the rage that would have come blasting out of Beijing.

I accept that many people are still unhappy with the official Philippine response to the murders in 2010 of eight Hong Kong people on that tourist bus in Manila. It was a horrible affair and perhaps the Philippine government could have done more to say "we're sorry".

Then again, we all recognise the Philippines in a general way as a land of music, laughter and charming people but also of occasional acts of extreme violence and delusion. No one ever said it is one of the world's safest places to visit and it is not entirely the fault of the Philippine government that things are so. We can as easily blame the church, Spanish conquistadors and American colonialism.

In my opinion, our previous chief executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, did not help matters by stirring up feelings when he would have done better to soothe them. In any case, it is time now to leave this dreadful incident behind us.

And where the journalists' association is concerned, my worry is that its credit with the public in complaints about press freedom is limited and it should be careful not to spend that credit in too profligate a manner. I do not like to see it reacting to an incident of inexcusable rudeness in Bali with an intensity of protest that it should reserve for real infractions of press freedom.

These people in Bali were out of line and properly rapped across the knuckles for it. Let the association save its ire for public officials who jail journalists for publishing unwelcome truths and who black out unfavourable news.



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This article is now closed to comments

Spot on. The Journalists Association should not have demonstrated in front of the consulates but called in the journalists in question and taught them a lesson of professional journalistic behaviour. That should also include telling TV crews not to shove cameras in people's faces who are in distress.
You know Jake, I'm never your fan for your profligacy in lashing out at Singapore, without any basis or merit except your ideological bias, but I give it to you on this one. You are absolutely spot on.
These Hong Kong journalists have gotten used to being rude shouting questions not only at the local chief executive, but also at visiting mainland Chinese leaders in the name of " freedom & democracy" bullcrap. No wonder they get into trouble when they do the same thing outside of Hong Kong.
I agree that the behaviour of the journalists was appalling.

That is not the issue here. The issue is whether it was justified for the Indonesian authorities to arrest them, jail them, bar them from further work on the conference and all but force them to take the first flight home.

Disrespectful behaviour is generally not a crime, and so whilst it is hard to sympathise with these reporters, the HKJA is completely right to protest against the authorities' heavy-handed treatment.
u are right. see how they heckled and taunted the Chinese official at HKU some years ago - all in the name of "democracy."
Of course this is not acceptable - here or elsewhere - but Chinese officials and HK leaders have long endured this kind of boorish and uncivilised behaviour from HK reporters. No wonder CY was laughing so happily that day at Putin's birthday bash!
HK-ers, in general, need to get off their high horse - they look down on neighbours - mainlanders, ban the filipino maids over an incident 3 yrs ago ? Now journo apology ?
well said, jake. good questions can be asked respectfully, without being rude. Basically, 9 out of 10 hongkies treat filipinos like dirt, due to racism, economic superiority, stereotype. " When one sees a filipina in hk, one always wonders whether she is a maid or a hooker". this is really egregious, but who should be blamed.? i suppose , as u said, the journos look at aquino, and they picture "driver" or "waiter".
However, it is hard to resolve the bus tragedy bec of the 2% conviction rate in the PI's corrupted justice system, which aquino vowed to reform, but unfortunately has not been able to move the needle. I grew up in the 60s admiring the philippines as a bastion of democracy and culture. But, After decades of corruption with no end in sight, PI is now and will be the **** of asia, and everyone will continue to treat it and its citizens as such.
Well said, Jake. Giving you a pat on the shoulder for this one.
cant agree with you more Jake. It seldom happens, but you are right this time
As Jiang Zemin retorted: “too simple and sometimes naive”
Monkey-see monkey-dos got what they asked for
a necessary lesson again, this time from our inferiors
despite the city’s superior gdp and Pisa scores
HK’s mouthpieces are mostly MSMD’s
wasting their talents in aping superficial western practice
lacking the depth to appreciate power, order, discipline and loyalty
that underlie western countries’ politico-cultural developments
Provincial and lowly educated journalism teachers who dominate local colleges
beget MSMD reporters who, fooled by western propaganda
mistake unruly behaviors as characteristics of democracy and freedom
and “educate” the mass with their daily dose of rubbish
Civic Party MSMD’s submit meekly to outlandish precedents before westerners
become reckless for democrazy breakthrus when dealing with ethnic leaders
and beget scholarism
HK style liberal democrazy : even those who don’t know simple algebra
are trying to show the world their potential to become I Newton
Packs of pathetic MSMD’s




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