CHAPTER TWO The World Looks at Hong Kong
"Freedom of the press" has a different definition in Washington D.C. than in Beijing, China, or in Singapore or in Jakarta or in Kuala Lumpur.
Which is another way of saying Western and Asian values differ sharply on what constitutes "free flow of information," just, as they differ on a lot, of other concepts.
This is not headline news; the fact has been known for a long time. But after reading the resolution of the recent Ninth General Assembly of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA), held in Beijing, it seems obvious that the debate is about to be rekindled with some ferocity.
Hiroshi Eguchi, Managing Director, International Department, of Japan's Kyodo News Service, showed me the resolution without comment. But he seemed relieved that Kyodo was giving up the chairmanship of OANA after 14 years. The new chairman is China's Xinhua News Agency.
No one at Xinhua is ever heard to quote this excerpt from a 1787 letter from former US. President Thomas Jefferson to a friend:
"The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
Xinhua could hardly be expected to prefer "newspapers without a government" simply because Xinhua is part of the Chinese government. In the case of the majority of the 30 members of OANA, there is some government link or some channel of government influence.
The dominance of Western news agencies in Asia (another old story) has been further enhanced by their advantage in technological developments. Giants like Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France Presse, Dow-Jones and Well-heeled new comer Bloomberg-helped along by new technologies including revolutionary multimedia twists-are speeding ever faster along the "Asia information highway." Many OANA members, meanwhile, are still traveling "Asia information backroads" that were last paved decades ago.
Besides urging OANA members, of find ways to complete, Xinhua used its new role as chairman to try to block any further inroads by these outsiders whom they feel practice a form of "news imperialism" or "news colonialism "
The Xinhua-influenced OANA resolution begins: