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HongKong> Opinion> Content
Friday, September 14, 2018, 10:49
FCC needs refresher course on basic journalism ethics
By Chow Pak-chin
Friday, September 14, 2018, 10:49 By Chow Pak-chin

Club leadership’s lack of transparency on approving separatist’s speech is a poor standards benchmark, Chow Pak-chin argues

When journalists don’t do their job properly, we, and society at large, all suffer. The consequences may not be direct and immediately noticeable, but the impact is often significant.

We don’t call the media the Fourth Estate for nothing. We recognize its influence among some of the greatest powers of society and nations, but they also have a corresponding and commensurate responsibility. They are fully aware of their significant political influence across society, even though they don’t possess any official power either within the government or the political system.

Journalists can easily shake and shape public opinion, drive political and social agendas, plus a lot more. The power they wield can be both constructive and destructive, depending on the degree of professional integrity of media individuals and news organizations.

Case in point is the public uproar stirred when Hong Kong independence advocate and separatist Andy Chan Ho-tin, convener of the Hong Kong National Party, was invited by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club to speak publicly at their luncheon on Aug 14. 

First, what is the FCC? It is an organization for journalists, both local and foreign, to meet, socialize, and occasionally host talks and events that are relevant and beneficial to the community.

Journalism is a noble profession. When I was a primary student, I read an article called “King without a Crown” to describe and summarize the respected position of journalists. Transparency and trustfulness are the backbone of this noble profession and may we remind all journalists that the pen is mightier than the sword

The club has some 2,100 members, of whom about 10 percent are journalists, mostly hired by foreign news organizations. The remainder are just associate members who are not media professionals. Apparently to them the FCC is no more than a social club.

Now we need to look at this political farce created by the FCC in the same way we would normally scrutinize the way a news story is put together. This should be done by examining whether it has been thoroughly researched and investigated; this means looking at all the facts that have been laid out and then writing it up in a balanced and fair manner.

How did the club come to the decision to invite Chan to speak at its luncheon? 

According to Ta Kung Pao, which has obtained the minutes of some of the FCC’s board of governors’ meetings, there was no record at all of inviting Chan to speak at the club.

In two of the board of governors’ meetings — conducted on June 23 and July 21 — there was no record of Chan’s invitation being discussed, let alone approved.

On the other hand, the Ta Kung Pao report said the minutes of its board of governors’ meetings held between July and November had clearly recorded details of all other events and activities hosted by the club, whether approved or declined, including detailed discussions on those events.

With this in mind, it’s odd why Chan’s invitation is not recorded in the minutes, as if Chan’s luncheon speech never took place.

Now we are getting a better idea because the lease under which the FCC premises are granted by the government has been made public after weeks of chasing. 

The following are the relevant clauses: “Not to use, or permit or suffer to be used any part of the Premises for any illegal or immoral purposes, and the determination of the Lessor as to what constitutes illegal or immoral purposes shall be final and binding on the Lessee.” 

“That in the event the Premises are not being used to the satisfaction of the Lessor, the Lessor shall be entitled to terminate this lease and take back possession of the premises upon giving three calendar months’ notice to the Lessee to that effect to expire at any time. No compensation shall be payable by the Lessor for any loss whatsoever suffered by the Lessee as a result of or arising from such termination.”

The speech by Chan was in contravention of the Basic Law which is a law in force in Hong Kong. The central government has heavily criticized the FCC for inviting Chan to speak. No one can say under these circumstances that the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region can be satisfied with the use of the premises.

The FCC board of governors should have known very well that they have stirred up a hornet’s nest. Do their members know?

We must keep the spotlight on to warn the public, as well as inform the club’s members, as to how the club is being run. Without reasonable intervention, will their behavior affect the club negatively?

Journalism is a noble profession. When I was a primary student, I read an article called “King without a Crown” to describe and summarize the respected position of journalists. Transparency and trustfulness are the backbone of this noble profession and may we remind all journalists that the pen is mightier than the sword. You can write to promote peace or incite a war. The choice is yours.

The author is president of Wisdom Hong Kong, a local think tank.


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