24 August, 2006

The PAP’s Disconnect

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned mr brown, and the government’s role in his termination from the Today newspaper, in the recent National Day address. A Singapore Angle has the transcript, with the below passage:

NdrSo I give you the example of Mr Brown’s column in Today. Some of you may have read it, some of you may not. But it hit out wildly at the government and in a very mocking and dismissive sort of tone. So MICA [Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts] replied. How can you not reply? And some Singaporeans feel we were too harsh, we should have been gentler, or maybe just even accepted it, it is just niceness, he didn’t mean us any harm.

Well, my view is like this: Mr Brown is very talented man (in fact he is Mr Lee Kim Mun). If you listen to his podcasts, they are hilarious. And he is entitled to his views, and entitled to express them. But when he takes on the government and makes serious accusations, as he did in this case because he said the government suppressed information before the elections which was awkward and only let it out afterwards, then the government has to respond, firstly to set the record straight, and secondly to signal that this is really not the way to carry on a public debate on national issues and especially not in the mainstream media.

As noted earlier, and as explained by mr brown this week, the government’s right of response is not a concern. The concern is the silencing of dissent, through the sacking of mr brown from Today and the refusal of the newspaper to print any further replies in defense of mr brown. This is said here by mr brown.:

I believe the Government has every right to respond to my Humour column. I may disagree with what they say but it is their right to respond.
I also believe in responding in turn to what the Government said in their letter, but my Humour column was suspended immediately after their letter was printed. Perhaps Mediacorp/TODAY did not stand by what they published?

I understand that many people did respond on the matter by writing in to the mainstream press, but none of their letters were published by mainstream media. Not a single one. Some people who wrote to TODAY about the column’s suspension received a templated response to write to MICA instead, even though TODAY were the ones who suspended the column. Strange.

An equally controversial element of the National Day speech was Lee’s comment that he orders his noodles without cockles. While AsiaPundit has not found the moment in the transcript, mr brown has captured the controversial utterance in his latest podcast.

Xenoboy explains the significance:

When PM Lee in his Rally Speech delivers the ultimate punchline to lay the bak chor mee to rest, to signal Government’s engagement with the Digital Age Singaporean, those dreaming of somewhere else, he utters the phrase “Mee Siam Mai Hum”.

This becomes an instant classic of dis-connect….

Read the whole thing. The disconnect is explained in this passage:

SketchbookmeehumMee Siam has never had cockles as an ingredient. Two other distinctly Singapore dishes use cockles. Laksa and Fried Kway Teow Noodles. Most Singaporeans know this. Its a fact of life.

To put it simply, most Singaporeans will NOT make this mistake. Its like ordering bak kut teh, another classic Singapore dish, without the soup. Ordering pizza and telling the chef to hold the dough. No, actually its worse. Its like ordering pizza and telling the chef to hold the spaghetti. In short, the phrase “Mee Siam Mai Hum” is an oxymoron. Its like one of those chain e-mail wordplay jokes “military intelligence”.

From what I understand, our esteemed national newspaper, the Straits Times, “heard” and interpreted the crucial phrase as “Mee Siam Mai Hiam”; which means hold the chilli. If this “hearing” is correct, than the phrase is meaningless as a direct riposte against the bak chor mee podcast. I guess the ST is not being honest again. Its “hearing” certainly connects with PM Lee but it means all the rest of Singaporeans “heard” wrongly, very dis-connected.

Image taken from Sei-ji Rakugaki’s Sketchbook, a full size and legible version is here.

While we will not discuss it in detail here, Lee’s comments were in reaction to an earlier satirical podcast by mr brown. See Jeff Ooi for more details on that

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by @ 1:29 pm. Filed under Blogs, Singapore, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Media, Censorship

7 August, 2006

Singapore Seeks Self-censoring Foreign Press

Singapore’s government has issued strict regulations on high-profile foreign publications seeking distribution in the city state. Having its local press on a tight rein and having threatened local netizens, the People’s Action Party is attempting to ensure that major overseas media do not print anything that goes against their ‘enlightened’ rule.

RSF has issued a condemnation:

MicavsfeerReporters Without Borders today condemned the Singapore government for putting pressure on on the Far Eastern Economic Review and four other foreign publications to censor themselves.

“The authorities are looking for effective ways, including fear of prosecution and heavy fines, to intimidate these publications into censoring themselves,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “This is the latest threat against the foreign media, which are the only means of reporting independently on political and economic events in the country since the local press is controlled by the government.”

The information, communications and arts ministry gave the monthly Far Eastern Economic Review until 11 September to comply with section 23 of the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act. The magazine has been registered as a foreign publication since it criticised the government’s domestic policy in 1987 but had an exemption from some legal requirements which has now been cancelled. It must have a legal representative in the country by the ministry’s deadline and pay a deposit of 200,000 Singapore dollars (100,000 euros). For other foreign publications, the International Herald Tribune, Time magazine, the Financial Times and Newsweek, have been ordered to do the same when their licences come up for renewal.

This crackdown follows an interview in the Far Eastern Economic Review with opposition leader Chee Soon Juan, who the magazine called a national “martyr” because of the many lawsuits against him.

Mr Wang, a Singapore lawyer, notes the legal implications for FEER and the other publications for having ‘a legal representative‘:

The interesting bit is the MICA requirement that FEER “must have a legal representative in the country”. This probably means that FEER is required to appoint what lawyers call a “process agent” in Singapore.

What’s the significance of having a process agent in Singapore? Well, it’s one of those rather technical legal/ procedural matters. The basic idea is that it enables the Singapore government to sue FEER …. in the Singapore courts….

…The foreign newspaper has to consider whether the Singapore courts would regard the article as “defamatory” of the Singapore government.

Not what you or me or the man in the street would regard as “defamatory” … not what a Hong Kong judge or an English judge or a Thai judge would regard as “defamatory” …. but what the Singapore courts would regard as “defamatory” of the Singapore government. There are some potentially scary implications here, because we can expect the chilling effect to kick in once again.

AsiaPundit has grown slightly tired of commenting on the slow erosion on liberty in Singapore under Lee Hsien Loong. On this occasion, he will leave the commentary to Imagethief.:

We, the audience, are left to wonder if the tightened regulations are really due to a “changing media landscape” or to a combination of a relatively poor election showing (by Singapore standards) for the PAP, anxiety about the ability of the somewhat charisma-challenged Lee Hsien Loong to carry his father’s mantle, and a feeling that people are beginning to sense the shadow of mortality hovering over the revered and still politically active elder Lee and wondering over the inevitable consequences.

Image stolen from Sei-ji Rakugaki’s sketchbook, the only regularly updated site for Singapore political cartooning (full size here).

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by @ 7:11 pm. Filed under Singapore, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Media, Censorship

12 July, 2006

Powerpuff Girls Grow Up

The successful US cartoon the Powerpuff Girls was in equal parts a homage and parody of anime and Japan’s obsession with cuteness. Japan’s Toei Animation, seemingly missing this point, has reversed engineered the cartoon for a domestic audience.


They were supercute but now…it is kind of sexy. Before: their legs were lumpy psuedopods. After: shapely young woman’s legs. This is exciting! This is disturbing! Disturbing and exciting? No! It is DEMASHITAA! POWERPUFF GIRLS Z, the latest incarnation of the Powerpuff Girls…now in 3-D anime and on Japanese TV. There is Mojo Jojo…but he looks like real monkey.

While Grady of the Kaiju Shakedown is disturbed by the girl’s new shapely legs, AsiaPundit is even more by bothered the decision to give Ms Sara Bellum more realistic proportions.:


AsiaPundit can assure readers that the character of Sara Bellum was intended as an inspiration for young girls who watched the program and was not a Jessica Rabbit-style attempt to garner male viewers through titillation. Note that the character’s name is a pun on ‘cerebellum.’

For those interested in further useless Powerpuff trivia, Ms Bellum’s address in Townsville was given as 69 Yodelinda Valley Lane.

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by @ 7:00 pm. Filed under Culture, Japan, Asia, East Asia, Media

6 July, 2006

Four Million Fingers

Singapore’s godfather of blogging, mr brown, has just been suspended as a columnist for the Today newspaper after the Ministry of Information and Culture (MICA) objected to his previous column.

Although AP is not a citizen, he was a long-term resident of the Lion City and has a strong affinity for the place. AP is outraged by the treatment of mr brown, a personal friend.

AP also objects because the government has again, through its oversensitivity and brutishness, embarrassed Singapore and its people.

The Singapore government says citizens should not offer criticisms unless they offer solutions. With that AP offers the following criticism and an accompanying solution:

Inspired by the government’s four million smile campaign, AsiaPundit would like to propose the Four Million Finger movement. He urges readers to display their outrage in the method illustrated below. Photos and posts will show up on Technorati and when tagged ‘fourmillionfingers.’


In order to help better attain the four-million-finger mark, AsiaPundit encourages the use of the two-finger salute, illustrated below on Ministry of Information spokeswoman Krishnasamy Bhavani.:


Ms Bhavani is president of the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore, which offers diploma and professional certificates in PR and mass communication. AsiaPundit will suggest that the current travesty offers a great case study for the institute: “Bhavani v. Brown: How to create an embarrassing global incident by cracking down on an innocuous columnist.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have issued a statement condemning the Singapore government.:

It is not the job of government officials to take a position on newspaper articles or blog posts unless they are clearly illegal, Reporters Without Borders pointed out today after the Singaporean newspaper Today published an opinion piece by an official on 3 July condemning a recent post by blogger Lee Kin Mun as over-politicised and unconstructive.

“This reaction from a Singaporean official is disturbing,” the press freedom organisation said. “It reads like a warning to all journalists and bloggers in a country in which the media are already strictly controlled. The media have a right to criticise the government’s actions and express political views. Furthermore, a newspaper’s editorial policies depend solely on its editors. They should under no circumstances be subject to instructions issued by the government.”

Lee, who uses the pseudonym “mr brown,” wrote an article entitled “S’poreans are fed, up with progress!” for Today’s opinion pages on 30 June in which he criticised recent government measures and the constant cost-of-living rises in an amusing and acerbic fashion.

Krishnasamy Bhavani, a press secretary to the ministry of information, communications and arts, responded with an article published in Today on 3 July in which she defended her government’s policies but went on to criticise Lee for taking a political position.

RSF issued the above statement yesterday, before it was revealed that mr brown would be suspended.

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by @ 7:18 pm. Filed under Blogs, Singapore, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Media, Censorship

30 June, 2006

China to Crack Down on Internet

Oh no! China i.:

BEIJING - China’s Internet regulators are stepping up controls on blogs and search engines to block material it considers unlawful or immoral, the government said Friday.Jingcha“As more and more illegal and unhealthy information spreads through the blog and search engine, we will take effective measures to put the BBS, blog and search engine under control,” said Cai Wu, director of the Information Office of China’s Cabinet, quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency.
The government will step up research on monitoring technology and issue “admittance standards” for blogs, the report said, without providing any details.
China encourages Internet use for business and education but tries to block access to obscene or subversive material. It has the world’s second-biggest population of Internet users after the United States, with 111 million people online.
China launched a campaign in February to “purify the environment” of the Internet and mobile communications, Xinhua said.
China has 37 million Web logs, or blogs, Xinhua said, citing a study by Beijing’s Tsinghua University. It said that number was expected to nearly double this year to 60 million.

This is shocking news, if only because AsiaPundit didn’t realize that the previous crackdown had abated.

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by @ 6:21 pm. Filed under Blogs, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, Censorship

8 June, 2006

Playboy and Democratic Development

After being driven by Islamists to relocate its offices from Jakarta to Denpasar in Bali , Playboy Indonesia has relaunched. And it’s not about objectifying scantily clad women… its about promoting democracy.:

BallyUnlike the first edition, the 160-page second edition contains no paid advertisements. Instead, there are almost entirely blank pages featuring only the Playboy bunny logo in different colors and a short message headlined “Playbill”. The message states: “This blank page is dedicated to our loyal clients who were threatened for placing advertisements in this magazine.” Each message then mentions a product that should have appeared, for example: “This page is owned by a cigarette product” and “This page is owned by a cellular telephone product”.

Arnada writes in the latest editorial that Playboy Indonesia was forced to relocate to the Bali capital of Denpasar because of concerns that staff would be unsafe if the magazine had remained based in Jakarta. “The safety and convenience of our employees comes first. People in Bali are more open to ideas, they are more adaptive,” he wrote.

“What we experienced over the past month… shows the name is an important thing. Our launch in April was marked by enthusiasm, prejudice, fear and various assumptions,” he said.

The editor said that although some legislators have called for the magazine to change its name, publishing Playboy is necessary for Indonesia’s democratic development. “The absence of a growing monopoly of a set of values and views in our beloved country in the end is our final purpose. We believe that is also the target of all of us who live with reason and want to understand the meaning of democracy and a pluralistic society.”

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by @ 12:36 am. Filed under Indonesia, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Media

6 June, 2006

Philippine Phalluses Irk Censors

Regulators in the Philippines are threatening to ban a documentary program after it ran a cultural item involving old women and wooden objects.:

THE PHALLUSES are carved out of wood. Some are painted with lipstick, others decorated with flowers and ribbons. A few are huge, like rocket launchers, while others are more human in scale.

 Blog Wp-Images Lukayo2They are the handiwork of the lukayo, women way past their sexual prime who dance at weddings where they wave the phalluses like trophies, brandish them like swords, twirl them like batons, or thrust them like, well, phalluses.

According to Ramon Obusan, who will be named the National Artist for Dance on Friday, the dance of the lukayo is a nearly 200-year old ritual that celebrates marriage and binds communities. For the women who take part, he says. “it is also a chance to assert their independence” and to mock male power, which the phallus represents.

On May 22, GMA 7’s multi-awarded documentary program “i-witness” featured the lukayo of Kalayaan, Laguna and showed old women decked in brightly colored ribbons, faux jewelry and gaudy flowers, some in boots and oversized sunglasses, all of them displaying phalluses of various sizes and shapes. They were dancing, singing bawdy songs and looked like they were having the time of their lives.

It was the first time anything like this was seen on Philippine television and it provided viewers a peek of what dance and culture scholar Obusan calls “the depth of the phallus in our culture” and that remains as a residue from our pre-Hispanic, Hindu-Malay past.

But the program, hosted by veteran television journalist Howie Severino (who is also a member of the PCIJ board), now risks being suspended by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) for violating Section 2, Chapter 4 of the implementing rules of the board, which prevents the airing of sexual content in a “patently lewd, offensive and demeaning manner.”

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by @ 11:14 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Media, Censorship

5 June, 2006

Asia Blog Awards: Q1 2006-2007

AsiaPundit is pleased to announce the commencement of the new round of Asia Blog Awards. The awards are based on the Japanese financial year, which ends on March 31, and nominations are now open for the April 1-June 30 period, full-year awards are to be based on the quarterly contests.

Details are below, nominations for the below categories can be made on the individual pages linked below until the end of June 16 (Samoan time).

Awards are at present limited to English-language or dual-language sites.

Region/Country Specific Blogs:

Non-region specific awards:

Podcasts, photo and video blogs must be based on original content — which means a site such as Danwei.tv is acceptable but TV in Japan is not (although it is an excellent site).

Some categories may be deleted or combined if they lack a full slate nominations - and some may be added should it be warranted.

Winners will be judged in equal parts on: (a) votes, (b) technorati ranking and (c) judges’ selection.

While judges will naturally have biases, they will hopefully offset imbalances in other areas (such as inevitable cheating in the voting and inflationary blogroll alliances in the Technorati ranks).

The names or sites of the judges will be public.

Judges will be ineligible for nomination. As the awards largely intend on providing exposure to lesser-known sites of merit, we are hopeful that authors of ‘A-list’ sites that tend to dominate such contests will disqualify themselves by being judges.

The contest has been endorsed by previous ABA host Simon who is also serving as a judge (thereby disqualifying Simon World).

Traffic — the most telling and accurate measure of a site’s populatity — may be a consideration in future awards. However, at present, there is no clear or universal way to accurately measure and contrast traffic (sites such as Sitemeter, Statcounter offer results that cannot be compared, while services such as Alexa.com do not work for sites that are not hosted on independent domains).

This is all imperfect and will be tweaked in future events (with transparency, of course).

Most importantly, this is intended to be fun.

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by @ 3:02 pm. Filed under Japan, South Korea, Blogs, Singapore, China, Pakistan, India, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Cambodia, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Myanmar/Burma, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Media, South Asia, Thailand, Web/Tech, Weblogs, North Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Tibet

29 May, 2006

Journalists at Risk in Shanghai

On top of having to worry about being thrown in jail for revealing state secrets — as happened to Shi Tao and Zhao Yan – or on charges of ‘espionage as happened to Ching Cheong, journalists in China have to worry about more mundane concerns.

An alarming report, picked up by Shanghaiist, informs us that journalists in Shanghai have the highest risk of dying an early death from job-related health factors.:

Now take a wild guess: Which occupation is the most dangerous in Shanghai? According to this report (in Chinese) by the Shanghai Evening Post, journalists, corporate managers and scientific researchers are the top ones in danger now.

Why? Xiong Sidong, director of Immunology Institute of Fudan University explains Shanghainese are threatened by a variety of physical ailments and karoshi (guolao si 过劳死 or “death from overwork”). And the three occupations listed above are the most stressful on employees in the city.

According to a recent survey, 79 percent of journalists in the city die between 40-60 years old — the average life span is 45.7 years old! — and another survey by the Chinese Academy of Science shows the average life span for scientific researchers to be 52.23. Some 15.6 percent of them die between the ages 35-54. Also, a survey targeting corporate managers interviewed 3,539 people — the result is not much better. Ninety percent of them think the work pressure is huge, 76 percent think they are nervous at work, and worst, a quarter of those surveyed said they had health problems related to work stress.

CleanersWhile AsiaPundit is deeply concerned that his chosen profession is the most dangerous in his city of residence, he is a touch relieved. AP has been periodically concerned by some of the occupational risks he has seen others take in the city. But upon learning that he is in the most risky profession, he will be more relaxed.

For instance, the next time he sees these window cleaners outside of his 39th floor office — supported by seats of untreated wood — he will no longer have the urge to feel any sympathy.

Instead, AP will now feel comfortable in mocking them for having such easy jobs.

AsiaPundit will now also taunt the construction workers he sees arc welding without protective goggles along Xizang Nan Lu.

Dan, who is also a journalist, should also be more relaxed the next time he gets his air conditioner repaired. It’s not like these guys face the stress of us journalists, corporate managers or researchers.

Note that the study is only limited to urban Shanghai, meaning that journalists should not yet be able to claim that they have more dangerous occupations than coal miners.

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by @ 11:36 am. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media

25 May, 2006

Anti-Porn Law Threatens Indonesia Democracy

The SCMP argues, in an editorial reprinted by Asia Media, that Indonesia’s proposed anti-porn law is a threat to the country’s democracy.:

Playboy-IndonesiaIndonesia’s secular identity is under threat from a proposed, Islamic-inspired anti-pornography law that would satisfy increasingly militant Muslims but begin curtailing the rights of the majority moderate followers of the faith. There is no room for such legislation in a country fighting to maintain the democratic freedoms it won so boldly by forcing dictator Suharto’s resignation eight years ago.

The overwhelmingly Muslim-majority nation of 210 million already has laws curtailing pornography; implementation is difficult, though — the rule of law is weak due to corrupt judges and police used to the ways of autocrats rather than democrats.

For conservative Indonesians, the result is the exploitation of women and children and the everyday prospect of being exposed to offensive images on news-stands and through the media.

But the bill before parliament goes much further than the law that exists, banning kissing in public and erotica of all forms. Be it erotic dancing or poetry, it would be illegal if the new law was passed.

There is no universal measure of standards of decency; each society has its own customs, traditions and beliefs. The Muslim faith is conservative by nature, but not all Indonesians follow the religion — the country has significant populations of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.

(Image stolen from the Telegraph)

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by @ 11:34 pm. Filed under Indonesia, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Media

Associated Press Pyongyang

This is an intriguing experiment, but to suggest that a highly controlled Pyongyang bureau will make the Associated Press the envy of other news organizations is very much overstating things.:

NkflagAPTN, the television arm of the Associated Press news agency, has become the first western media organisation to open a bureau in Pyongyang.

This is a remarkable coup and will make AP the envy of other international news organisations which have been trying without success to open an office in North Korea, which generally bans journalists from the country, especially Americans.

APTN’s director of marketing, Toby Hartwell, told NK Zone that the bureau will be manned by three local North Koreans who “will adhere to the AP’s reporting standards.”

Negotiations had taken four or five years, and the AP had received guarantees from North Korean officials that they would allow regular visits by their journalists and news executives.

“We will be robust in what kind of cover we expect” from the three North Korean staff, a producer, a cameraman and an office assistant, said Hartwell.

Opening the bureau was “a first step, but a significant one,” he added.

If AsiaPundit’s memory serves him correctly, the only two foreign news organizations permitted to have bureaus in North Korea have been China’s Xinhua and Russia’s Tass. Both are state news agencies, and don’t stray too far from their own state positions. But they are staffed by Chinese and Russian journalists who would unlikely face much in the way of reprisals from North Korea itself.

It will be interesting to see what sort of copy the local staff will produce for AP. But as this is a country that jails cheerleaders, AsiaPundit is not expecting it to be be of much news value.

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by @ 12:17 am. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, North Korea

24 May, 2006

Mahathir turns to Malasiakini

After 22-years of strong-arming the press as prime minister of Malaysia, former prime minister Mahathir Mohammad is finding it hard to get any attention. Moreover, he is being denied access to the state-censored press is is now turning to the online news outlet that has long been the subject of scorn from himself and the ruling IMNO party.:

Mahathir muzzled? Malaysian ex-PM vents on the Web

(Reuters) - Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, never the warmest friend of a free press, has suddenly found a use for it now that he is out of power.

In an irony that escaped no one in Malaysia’s pro-government mainstream media, Mahathir turned to a small independent Web site, Malaysiakini.com, to criticise the government on Tuesday.

“He’s been complaining about being isolated from the mainstream media,” Malaysiakini.com boss Premesh Chandran told Reuters, explaining that the major dailies that once hung on Mahathir’s every word now didn’t have much time for him.

That might be because he recently accused the administration of his successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawai, of selling out sovereignty and lacking “guts” over its recent decision to scrap a project to build a bridge to neighbouring Singapore.

Jeff Ooi speaks with the editor of Malaysiakini who conducted the interview.:

 Drm MkiniMalaysiakini editor Steven Gan who led his team of journalists to interview Dr Mahathir on May 16, a request denied for six long years and postponed three times after a consent was given in March this year, came home with two unmistaken conclusions.

One, it was a reluctant interview, and Mahathir has not changed his view of Malaysiakini. In fact, says Steven, Mahathir had strongly hinted that he made a mistake in granting Malaysiakini the interview. Mahathir, apparently, has been persuaded to do so by one of his advisors.

Two, the interview confirmed something many had long known, that Mahathir is not someone who would accept his shortcomings easily. He remains “combative, sarcastic, and at times, bellicose” when asked about the mistakes he had made in his 22 years in power.

After 22 years of Mahathir, we should use Steven’s quotation on our leaders of the present and the future all the same.

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by @ 11:09 pm. Filed under Malaysia, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Media

15 May, 2006

Ka De Club

The Shanghaiist asks:

“Does anyone else find it odd that Shanghai’s most famous/notorious bootleg DVD shop is advertising in Shanghai’s most famous/notorious state-run English-language newspaper? What does it say about Shanghai’s “war on piracy” when Ka De Club, routinely raided by police, has the balls to take out an ad — and that Shanghai Daily, which reports on those raids, runs the ad?”

 Attachments Shang Dan Kadeclubshanghaidaily

The Ka Dae Club was last raided ahead of an intellectual property conference. A pure coincidence we assure you. The Shanghai government is very serious about cracking down on piracy.

Still, as for the Shanghaiist’s question, AsiaPundit is hardly shocked that state-owned Shanghai Daily is accepting ads for the illegal DVD shop coffee shop that doesn’t sell coffee. The paper regularly runs ads for prostitutes escort and massage services. It has even been skirting rules prohibiting foreign investment through a deal with Australia’s Seven Network. The latter deal has remarkably improved the readability of the paper over the past year.
Rule-breaking is a good thing for the paper. And given that its expatriate target audience are the biggest patrons of Ka De, AP would have recommended running the ad as a public service.

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by @ 11:13 pm. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media

Sergey Attacks Yahoo!

While redirecting criticism toward a competitor is usually a poor way to deal with probing questions, AsiaPundit thinks Google co-founder Sergey Brin did properly address a protest from Amnesty International at the company’s annual general meeting.:

EnemyA wide range of investors, including retirees and Wall Street professionals, attended the meeting at Google’s Mountain View campus. They peppered the two founders and Chief Executive Eric Schmidt with questions about everything from new products to sluggish e-mail to competition with Microsoft and Yahoo.

A member of Amnesty International who was representing the shares of a New York pension fund took a turn at the microphone to criticize Google’s decision to launch a separate search engine in China and comply with that government’s censorship policies.

But the protest got derailed when Brin asked the man, Anthony Cruz, what search engine he was recommending as an alternative to Google.

“I use Yahoo,” Cruz responded.

“You mean the one that has been censoring since the ’90s and recently caused a number of journalists to go to prison?” Brin asked in amazement.

Via Searchnewz, where David comments “Maybe Amnesty International USA should take down its front page attack on Google and replace it with Yahoo instead, perhaps?”

AsiaPundit still uses all Google, Microsoft and Yahoo services - though he may search for a new photo service when his Flickr pro account expires. However, for those who want to avoid all three companies, Amazon’s A9 search engine is pretty good.

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by @ 12:13 am. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, Censorship

10 May, 2006

Singapore’s Press: Free to Self-censor

AsiaPundit has known many good local journalists working in Singapore, but AP remains a critic of the Singapore press. However, so too are many of the reporters who work for it. An anonymous media worker reports on the chill felt in Singapore newsrooms during the general election.:

I had no illusions about the independence of the local media when I first started my job as a [——] in Singapore. I knew that my work would be edited, and possibly censored for political safety, and I was mostly fine with that - no media channel anywhere in the world is entirely free from some form of editorial trimming, after all.
PapboltWhat I didn’t bargain for was individual self-censorship, unspoken policies and rules, and the stoutness with which people swallowed their journalistic dignity and integrity (because it does exist, even strongly, in some places) to toe the party line. Incredible as it seems, reporters in Singapore do have the same fierce pride in their work as reporters anywhere else; I think this is especially evident in sections of the media that don’t touch on politics.
But when it comes to political news, particularly something as sensitive as the elections, many of us leave our brains and consciences at home and resign ourselves to doing what we’re told and writing what’s being dictated. To some extent I appreciate the rationale of this - there really is a very close watch being kept on the media and when we’re kept in line it’s largely for our own safety.
However, as someone still young and naive and idealistic, it’s hard for me to swallow the indignation I feel whenever I see the local media doggedly ignoring its otherwise sharply-honed news sense. Articles and TV programmes are edited to balance out pro-opposition views; awesome camera opportunities - like the opposition rallies - are studiously left out of media coverage; banal and unfair quotes and tactics are highlighted and headlined simply because they are tools of the ruling party.
There are many things journalists see that the eyes of the public are not privy to, and that we would like to report on but can’t. Please remember that when you read an article or watch a broadcast that seems particularly, emetically subjective. And help spread the word that a lot of us in the media are sorry that we can’t do the job we want to.

AP will note that foreign media in Singapore is also guilty of self-censorship. While some of the better publications are willing to weather an annual libel suit and settlement for stating the obvious, most of the media operating in the country is very aware of what cannot be said in the city state. And none have been willing to challenge a libel charge in court. Of course, there may be a good reason for that.

(via Tomorrow)

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by @ 10:16 pm. Filed under Singapore, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Media, Censorship

9 May, 2006

Academic freedom: China vs Singapore

Sam Crane points to an essay by Daniel Bell that, among other things, argues Mainland China offers greater academic freedom than Singapore.:

The willingness to put up with political constraints depends partly upon one’s history. In my case, I had taught at the National University of Singapore in the early 1990s. There, the head of the department was a member of the ruling People’s Action Party. He was soon replaced by another head, who asked to see my reading lists and informed me that I should teach more communitarianism (the subject of my doctoral thesis) and less John Stuart Mill. Naturally, this made me want to do the opposite. Strange people would show up in my classroom when I spoke about “politically sensitive” topics, such as Karl Marx’s thought. Students would clam up when I used examples from local politics to illustrate arguments. It came as no surprise when my contract was not renewed.
In comparison, China is a paradise of academic freedom. Among colleagues, anything goes (in Singapore, most local colleagues were very guarded when dealing with foreigners). Academic publications are surprisingly free: there aren’t any personal attacks on leaders or open calls for multiparty rule, but particular policies, such as the household registry system, which limits internal mobility, are subject to severe criticism.

As a resident of both countries, AsiaPundit is somewhat skeptical of Bell’s observations. The ‘out of bounds’ markers in Singapore do permit discussion of most matters of policy - discussions of nepotism or the integrity of the courts could cause some trouble. Still, AP has never been involved in academia and would welcome comments from those more experience in that arena.

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by @ 10:59 pm. Filed under Singapore, China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Media, Censorship

8 May, 2006

Mission Impossible: China

For a truly impossible mission, try getting a big-budget Hollywood movie simultaneously released in China.:

M:I:3, the last best hope for Tom Crusie to regains some public credibility, thought it was doing all the right things. It shot in China for over a month, it’s an official co-production, the script was submitted for - and received - approval, and China Films receives a credit. But despite the fact that THE DA VINCI CODE is getting a day and date release in China, M:I:3 is being pushed back to July. A black-out for foreign releases from June 10 - July 11 has been put into place, and M:I:3 had already been pushed from May to June to make way for DA VINCI.
There are no big Chinese productions to be protected during this period, and the producers of M:I:3 are gutted since this 10 week pushback means that piracy will eat up almost all their potential profits in China. Some sources are saying that the depiction of a crime at the start of the movie that the Public Security Bureau doesn’t know about casts Chinese law enforcement in a bad light, but we all know the real reason for the delay: China just likes to mess around and freak everybody out. No one tells China what to do!

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by @ 8:50 pm. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, Film

26 April, 2006

lest we forget

More than one year.

ChingcheongThe Hong Kong Journalists Association and Reporters Without Borders have campaigns to save Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong journalist charged by China with spying. RSF says he faces a possible death sentence although the Chinese authorities have produced no evidence against him.

Over two months.:

FreehaoReporters Without Borders today said it considered Chinese blogger Hao Wu to be the victim of state abduction as more than two months have gone by since his arrest by the National Security Bureau in Beijing without his family getting any news about him. His lawyer has not been allowed to see him, but has been told his client is under house arrest.

“This case shows the Chinese security services operate without any control by the courts,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Hao is the victim of an arbitrary system that interprets the law as it sees fit. We call on European and American diplomadts to raise his case at their meetings with the Chinese authorities. We are curious know how they will justify the National Security Bureau’s procedures.”

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by @ 7:55 am. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, Censorship

17 April, 2006

petition for hao wu

Global Voices editor Hao Wu remains imprisoned without charge by Beijing’s Public Security Bureau. With the initial burst of reporting and support having failed to secure his release, GV has launched a petition to directly appeal to President Hu Jintao.:


Many Global Voices readers have asked what they can do to hasten our friend and colleage Hao Wu’s release from detention in Beijing. Hundreds of you have put badges on your blogs and webpages to call attention to Hao Wu’s detention, and this support has helped generate media interest in the situation.

We’d hoped that media pressure would lead to Hu Jintao to release Hao prior to his upcoming meeting with President Bush. Unfortunately, this looks increasingly unlikely. So today we’re launching a letter-writing campaign and a petition to ask for Hao’s immediate release.

Rebecca launched the letter writing campaign earlier today, and we’re encouraging readers to write to their national governments, to the Chinese ambassadors in their nation, to their local newspapers, and to Chinese President Hu Jintao. Her post offers key pieces of information to include in letters or op-eds as well some useful addresses.

We’ve also launched an online petition, demanding that President Hu Jintao release Hao immediately.

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by @ 10:14 pm. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media

the decline of taiwan comics

The Leaky Pen, having ventured into a Taichung book store to discover that students were most interested in porn and video games, writes a lament on the demise of Taiwan’s comic culture.:

TaiwancomicUnlike Hong, the comic book artists of post-WWII era were not so funny. By far the most famous and influential comic book artist of the 1950s was the pseudonymous writer named “Brother Cow,” 牛哥 (1925-1997), whose real name was Lee Fei-meng (李費蒙). Lee was a mainlander who escaped from China and came to Taiwan with the KMT in 1949. His anti-Communist strips were characterized by stupid, Ah-Q looking Chinese characters with buck teeth and bald heads and evil Communist overlords (some of it displaying a very weird sense of ’self-racism’).

In 1966, the same year that the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” began in China, a draconian policy of comics censorship was put in place in Taiwan called the “comics censorship law” 《漫畫審查辦法》. According to this policy, the National Editorial Bureau (i.e., the national censorship board) could filter anything and everything, especially anything critical of the Nationalist government. This was the heyday of the anti-Communist comics when everything was propaganda and propaganda was everything. The “local” comics produced during this era were of a uniformly bad quality–much like the socialist realist novels being produced in China–and failed to capture the interest of young readers. Consequently, sales of local comics declined rapidly.

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by @ 9:28 pm. Filed under Culture, Japan, China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media

11 April, 2006

the mii’s mission

AsiaPundit is pleased to report that central planning is alive and well in the new ‘wired’ China. Via 活龙行天下, a summary of key work areas of the Ministry of Information Industry (MII).:

Overall requirements: Guided by the Deng Xiaoping theory and the important thoughts of Three Represents, the spirits of the Sixteenth National Congress of the Party, the 5th Session of the Central Committee of the Party and the Central Economic Working Conference; to implement the Concept of Scientific Development, make China a telecom and electronic giant, focus on structural adjustments and strategic transformation, improve the quality and efficiency of development, center on technological innovations and strengthen the core competitiveness of the information industry; to transform the functions of the government, create a good environment for the development of the industry; to apply information technology (IT), strengthen the IT promotion and application, to base on the people-first principle, provide good products and services to the public and promote the sustained, rapid, coordinated and healthy development of the information industry.

Much more below the jump, if you can tolerate it.

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by @ 9:53 pm. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, Web/Tech, Television

cctv now ‘fair and balanced’

CCTV, the Chinese state-owned broadcaster, has launched a new website in collaboration with Rupert Murdoch’s FOX news.:

 Images Cctvgif

CCTV International and CCTV.com formally launched an updated and revamped English website on Tuesday, at English.cctv.com. The newly designed website is expected to better serve Internet surfers, and also to help boost viewing figures for CCTV International’s TV programs.

Three partners are jointly announcing the launch of CCTV International’s new website. Collaborating with Fox Cable network and CCTV.COM, CCTV International hopes joint efforts will strengthen its image among current and potential viewers. And also to increase viewers for TV programs on CCTV International — through the www.cctv.com website…

…FOX Cable Networks offered help with the design of the new web-page. The company says this is only the beginning of cooperation between Fox and CCTV International. Fox says the new webpage provides a source for the world to get to know about China.

Perhaps all of those who were damning Google for the censored China site will now damn FOX for assisting CCTV, which has much more aggressive censorship policies than any US search engine.

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by @ 9:45 pm. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, Web/Tech, Censorship

young burmese brains

Via bhojman’s Meanderings, a Myanmar state-owned newspaper has accused a US journalism education program of poisioning “young Myanmar brains.”

A US government centre in Burma is spreading “poison” among local reporters through its English for Journalism courses, a state-owned newspaper said today.

The Kyemon newspaper said apart from teaching journalistic ethics and writing, foreign instructors at the American Centre in Burma, known as Myanmar by its military rulers, have gathered information about the country’s education, health and social conditions from the students.

“The ‘English for Journalism’ course attended by young journalists from various Myanmar media groups is like poison, because the course is nothing but sugar-coated bitter medicine,” the newspaper wrote.

The article went on to indicate that the centre, through courses like the one on journalism, was spreading American propaganda and harming “young Myanmar brains”.

Thomas Pierce, who heads the centre, declined immediate comment since he had not read the article.

“We are working to improve journalism in Burma, working with journalists to both improve their English and reporting skill,” he said.

The centre, operated by the US Embassy in Yangon, offers educational courses, a library, films and other facilities that are open to all Burmese citizens.

AsiaPundit thinks that far more Burmese brains have been damaged by beatings by SPDC thugs or the drugs that the junta helps traffic. Still, he will admit that journalism school can cause brain damage.

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by @ 9:03 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Myanmar/Burma, Southeast Asia, Media, Censorship

fcuk thailand

Via the not-quite-worksafe Mango Sauce, a clear violation of intellectual property on a sign touted as the funniest in Pattaya.:


In Pattaya’s Soi Bukhao district, the FCUK Inn promises drinkers more than just a cold beer and a hand of cards. Before calling in, however, bridge enthusiasts might organise a couple of rubbers first.

French Connection Group Plc surely would object to their brand being used for this. But given that French Connection UK’s (FCUK) latest advertising campaign involves two models tearing each other’s clothing off in a lesbian cat fight, they can hardly say that the brand is being debased.


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by @ 8:37 pm. Filed under Asia, Southeast Asia, Media, Thailand

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