Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Losing Control

Losing Control: Freedom of the Press in Asia

Louise Williams
Roland Rich
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: ANU Press
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Losing Control
    Book Description:

    ‘A free press is not a luxury. A free press is at the absolute core of equitable development’ according to World Bank President James Wolfensohn. A free press is also the key to transparency and good governance and is an indispensable feature of a democracy. So how does Asia rate? In Losing Control, leading journalists analyse the state of play in all the countries of North Asia and Southeast Asia. From the herd journalism of Japan to the Stalinist system of North Korea, Losing Control provides an inside look at journalism and freedom of the press in each country. One conclusion—a combination of new technology and greater democracy is breaking the shackles that once constrained the press in Asia. ‘Brings together Asia’s best and brightest observers of the press.’ Hamish McDonald, Foreign Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald ‘A rare insiders’ view exposing the real dynamics behind social and political change in Asia.’ Evan Williams, Foreign Correspondent, ABC TV ‘A timely and necessary contribution to the debate over the quality of freedom in Asia.’ Geoffrey Barker, The Australian Financial Review

    eISBN: 978-1-925021-44-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Preface Press freedom in Asia: an uneven terrain
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Amando Doronila
  5. Censors At work, censors out of work
    (pp. 1-15)
    Louise Williams

    Information is power, or so the enduring dictators of history have understood. In so many of Asia’s capitals, from Beijing to Jakarta, from Rangoon to Hanoi, the scene was the same. In obscure back rooms, rows of desks lay lined up, their surfaces rubbed smooth by years of diligent effort, as the faceless agents of authoritarian states dutifully poured over newspapers and magazines. Carefully, the swarms of censors cut out ‘subversive’ articles from abroad, one by one, or bent low over ‘offensive’ captions and photographs and blacked them out by hand. They laboured over their own local newspapers too, erasing...

  6. Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia A few rays of light
    (pp. 16-36)
    Roland Rich

    Many political dissidents have died within the walls of Burma’s notorious Insein prison, where former inmates say the thick stone walls run with water in the wet season and the wind howls through the open bars as prisoners huddle like caged animals. In 1996, sexagenarian Leo Nichols, the Anglo-Burmese acting Honorary Consul for several European countries, died within the prison complex a few months into his three-year sentence. His crime: possession of an unregistered fax machine. Perhaps, more to the point, though, was his friendship with opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. In Burma censorship and control of the media...

  7. China State power versus the Internet
    (pp. 37-57)
    Willy Wo-Lap Lam

    ‘Power grows out of the barrel of a gun’. said Chairman Mao Zedong on the success of the Communist Revolution. Yet it is equally accurate to say that power grows out of, and is sustained by, the nib of a pen. Propaganda, through the heavy-handed manipulation of the media, has been just as essential as the army and police in upholding the mandate of heaven of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). As China celebrated the 50th anniversary of Communist rule on 1 October 1999, the administration of President Jiang Zemin seemed to have barely deviated from the view that propaganda...

  8. Hong Kong A handover of freedom?
    (pp. 58-73)
    Chris Yeung

    How free is too free? Or, perhaps more accurately, how low is too low? These are the questions that officials and consumers in Hong Kong are asking as the media dishes up an increasingly sensational, voyeuristic and sometimes fictional diet of scandal, gore and intrigue. Did theApple Daily, one of the tabloid market leaders, step over the line when it paid a labourer to pose in bed with a prostitute, thus illustrating the infidelity which drove his wife to push her two sons out of their high-rise apartment window and to jump herself? At what point does the government...

  9. Indonesia Dancing in the dark
    (pp. 74-92)
    Andreas Harsono

    In February 1999, as tensions over East Timor were building, scores of personally addressed faxes went out to Australian journalists, bringing a message of death into their offices and homes.

    An Australian journalist would suffer the ultimate sanction—murder—as a protest against Australia’s role in urging Jakarta to approve a ballot on independence which would cut the restive province free from Indonesian control. The threat to the press was then expanded to take in Australian diplomats and Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, too, was shown a written ‘death notice’ by two commanders of pro-Jakarta militia units from East Timor...

  10. Japan The warmth of the herd
    (pp. 93-114)
    Walter Hamilton

    A black limousine approached along a narrow street of clipped hedges and freshly-swept garden paths and stopped outside the home of Yoshiyuki Kono, a middle-aged salary man plucked from anonymity in one of Japan’s most spectacular, and ill-founded, trials by media.

    For the three executives of the prestigiousAsahinewspaper, this call was a humiliating duty they wanted to get over and done with as quickly as possible. Sensing their discomfort and alert to the least hint of insincerity, the shattered Kono brusquely pointed them towards the living room. Silently, the three dark-suited executives assembled in a row on the...

  11. Malaysia In the grip of the government
    (pp. 115-137)
    Kean Wong

    I began to see the Malaysian journalist as one of the saddest creatures in the nation. Our readers dismissed us as lapdogs of the government; the government considered us instruments of policy. But the truth was that Malaysian journalism was replete with people of intelligence and integrity, good and honourable Malaysians, who were finding that their careers demanded enormous efforts of conscience...Malaysia’s journalists would be among those most personally damaged by the Mahathir years, and their tragedy was that it was their idealism that kept so many of them going as long as they did (Rashid 1993).

    The Malaysian media,...

  12. North Korea A black chapter
    (pp. 138-146)
    Krzysztof Darewicz

    As the sun rises over the world’s most totalitarian and isolated state, intelligence officers begin the deliveries ofBulletin No 1. This top-secret document, a compendium of the most important local and international events of the day, would probably be called a newspaper anywhere else. But, true to the outdated teachings of Stalin, the hermit regime of North Korea continues to believe that as information is power, control of information equals total political control. Thus, the real news of the nation and the world is restricted to a limited number of top political leaders—all members of the Politburo and...

  13. Philippines Free as a mocking bird
    (pp. 147-168)
    Sheila S. Coronel

    For three days and nights millions of Filipino civilians, led by Catholic nuns armed only with flowers and prayers, faced down the soldiers of their dictator on the streets of Manila as the world watched. As a news story, the knifed-edge stand-off of 1986 was perhaps the most spectacular political tale of the decade. Here was a poor, developing nation cowed by years of authoritarian rule challenging the guns and tanks of the armed forces, women and children packing the crowds with the men as helicopter gunships swirled menacingly overhead. The leader of the opposition was merely a housewife, the...

  14. Singapore Information lockdown, business as usual
    (pp. 169-189)
    Garry Rodan

    Within the neat, high rise towers of Singapore’s economic success sit hundreds of thousands of personal computers, the gateways into the global information age in one of the world’s most technologically sophisticated societies. Yet, behind the gentle whirring of the browsers and the email, lie the gatekeepers of the global information age, the officials of the Singapore government. Earlier this year, that government wandered into almost half of the 400,000 computers of Internet users, without their knowledge, in what was explained as a sweep for computer viruses. Five years earlier a similar search of private and business computer files was...

  15. South Korea Fear is a hard habit to break
    (pp. 190-207)
    Roger du Mars

    On the outskirts of Seoul, among those vast, grey industrial plains of factories and dull, uniform high rise apartments, the first editions of the day’s newspapers are being ‘touched up’ by senior editors, government officials looking over their shoulders. This is not censorship as most South Koreans understand it; having lived through military regimes so brutal that journalists were beaten, tortured and murdered for challenging totalitarian rule, and entire newspaper groups were unceremoniously swept up by the power holders. As we begin the 21st century, South Korea presents a democratic face to the world, government officials ‘hint’, ‘request’, ‘entreat’ or...

  16. Taiwan All politics, no privacy
    (pp. 208-218)
    Ma-li Yang and Dennis Engbarth

    In the scramble to outdo the competition, one Taiwanese television station recently reported on an alleged case of wife swapping. It solved the problem of having no available footage by broadcasting scenes from an illegal pornographic VCD, with the helpful label ‘simulation’ overlaid. In a recent news report on a police crackdown on ‘girlie’ bars another television station gave over six full minutes of air time to the opinions of the establishment’s ‘public relations ladies’, the camera scanning their bare thighs and skimpy tops. So fierce is the battle for viewers, and the accompanying advertising revenue, in Taiwan’s crowded television...

  17. Thailand A troubled path to a hopeful future
    (pp. 219-238)
    Kavi Chongkittavorn

    ‘The weight of this sad time we ought to obey, speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.’ So ran the editorial of Thailand’sThe Nationnewspaper on 20 May 1992. The quote from the last act of Shakespeare’sKing Lear—when the good and the bad, the strong and the weak, all die alike, and the stage is so littered with corpses that it is left to Edgar to stammer the curtain down—was edged in the editorial in the black of mourning. The remainder of the editorial box was left blank, for the point had been...

  18. Vietnam Propaganda is not a dirty word
    (pp. 239-257)
    Peter Mares

    Every morning in cities, towns and villages across Vietnam, people go about their business to the crackle of loudspeakers. The monotonous daily broadcasts, courtesy of the local level administration, the peoples’ committee of the ward or commune, is a mix of patriotic music, official news, decrees and mundane announcements. People may be reminded not to clutter the pavement with motorcycles or ordered to be alert to the threat of ‘peaceful evolution’ (the coded catchphrase for attempts to undermine communist rule).

    The nationwide network of around 900,000 loudspeakers dates back to Vietnam’s revolutionary struggle, when party cadres would travel from village...

  19. Abbreviations
    (pp. 258-261)
  20. References
    (pp. 262-274)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 275-282)