CHAPTER THREE Asian Values & 'What is Freedom of the Press?'
Many businessmen tend to dismiss the concept of "freedom of the press" as some sort of bothersome distraction that gets in the way of increased sales. The same goes for human rights.
In the past 20 years, a body of thought and literature has grown up around "Asian values" portraying it at its best as a collection of ambiguities and at its worst is a blanket charge against the west for inventing "freedom of the press" as some convoluted concept that restrain Asians.
The position of this book is that freedom of the press is a universal human right as articulated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas though any media and regardless of frontiers.
It is the right to own a printing press and to use it.
Hong Kong's case at present is of a relatively free press being eroded by insidious pressures stemming from perceptions that the government of the People's Republic of China, of which Hong Kong is a part but from which it has been granted certain differences, should not be offended.
Press freedom is the leading edge of a larger debate or focus in Hong Kong, projected to all of Northeast Asia and, for that matter all of the regions.
The thesis of this book is that the status of press freedom in a given country or territory is the gauge or index of the country's democracy or total freedom position and condition.
Several surveys have been published recently purporting to be an Economic Freedom Index in which countries are rated on where they stand in terms of economic freedom.
It makes more sense to me to evaluate a country according to how free its press is than to rate it according to how free its economy is.
Still others will say that it is absurd to attempt quantification in either case - economy or press freedom - and I would tend to agree, they have a point. But in an effort to shed light on the greater issue as well as on that of press freedom in Hong Kong specifically, I think some debate is appropriate.
Xu Xiaoge., Ph.D. is a candidate at the School of Communication Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Media Asia, Asian Media Information Center, Volume 25 Number 1, 1998.