Erased: Hong Kong, Basic Law, My Future is a Cliche
Buy Art To Support Rape Crisis.

Censorship/Self Censorship: Watering Down My Interview

Awaiting a Democratic Hong Kong

Last Thursday an interview of me was played on TV in a show called “Discussion Point,” on Cable News Channel One. It was a show on "blogging and Hong Kong culture," and I of was invited to speak because of my nomination for the "freedom blog awards," which in every which way is a free speech award and I was the only person from Hong Kong who has been nominated.

Although I am not keen on discussing "blogging," on the whole with the press, I decided to do it because a very high profile political commentator recommended me, and I felt I should thank him by appearing. But I made a real effort to make sure my answers would not be fluff on blogging, but about blogging and the freedom of press. Before I went in, I already have a feeling that they didn't want politics, and in a preliminary conversation, I actually asked the journalist, "You know what I write about don't you? You know what the award is right?"

"Err. Yes, I looked at it. You talk a lot about freedom of press. I want you to talk about that, really."

I went in skeptical but hopeful. I talked a lot about the issues and she asked me a lot about them as well. But came Thursday, my gut feeling was right as it turned out to be an exercise in either out right censorship by Cable News One, or (more likely) a poster moment of self-censorship by the press.

Every single mention I made about politics was duly removed. Every one. The words “Freedom of press,” “Rule of Law,” “Democratic Movement,” never came out of my mouth. Not even once. It got a mention with the voice over, as it was explained by the journalist that is what I write about. Having said that, I am not even sure if “Democratic Movement” actually got a mention. I will check.

My three minutes consisted of comments on the Global Culture of Blogging. And how the blog was the place I sort out my "thoughts," and help develop them. But I wasn't talking about "Thoughts in General," I was talking about "Political Thoughts," in particular, and I am amazed at the time they took to edit that segment to the point it was completely out of context. As a non-linear editor myself I know how they do it, and was suspicions they would try. So I purposely phrased what I said so it was difficult. They managed it, and I am not totally convinced they didn't remove parts of the soundtrack. What I plan to do it go through it slowly bit by bit on my editing software just to make sure they didn't.

And what makes me even more concerned is pretty much every Hong Kong person I spoke about this with doesn’t feel like this is censorship at all. They make a myriad of excuses for the words “Freedom of speech, freedom of press, rule of law and democratic movement,” to magically disappear, because either it’s not interesting to the public or had nothing to do with blogs at all.

But I talked to other people in other parts of the world as well. Just to see what response I would get.

My friend in Australia said, “Don’t be angry, it’s just how it is. They don’t let you talk over there.”

My America friend said, “They sooo, censored you. No question. You should thank them for doing that, because it just proves your point and therefore what you are doing has real relevance.”

My Political Adviser for the Common Wealth friend in London summed it all up,

“The degradation of freedom of speech starts with self censorship, which has been continually getting worse in Hong Kong. But the people have been in the environment for so long that they don’t realize that it’s not a civil society because the place has some semblance of free speech, and not politically censored. But they have never experienced the potential of the media as it could be and is at other places. Of course blogging is political, the most famous blogs are about politics and taking that away from the story is censoring and cutting out the debate. It is censorship. Very obviously so.”

So I told her my plan. I am going to put up the transcript of the interview in English, along with the segment itself. Then I will write down what I was asked and how I actually answered. Then I can let people decide what they think happened.

Any my friend replied.

“That’s what is good about this.  Your blog becomes a channel that cannot be censored and give you a pathway to tell your side of the story. You can write down what you said and let people know even if they cut all that part out. That’s what’s great about the medium, that’s where the change that is happening. People have an avenue to reply and talk back to the media and tell their own views.

Indeed.

 

Comments

Andrea

I was disappointed too when I saw what was on as your previous posts about the interview gave me high expectations. Anyway, I look forward to the uncut version of your interview here.

Andrea

By the way, the program host said that Glutter writes about democracy in Hong Kong. Not democractic movement or anything like that, leaving the audience an impression that there is democracy in Hong Kong.

Glutterbug

And we don't. We don't even have a free press. I am going to spend a whole week or ten days just talking about all the thoughts I have about the self-censorship deal, and how by removing political discourse (this included that HKU professor) from all stories, it just wipes out the concept of participation and debate. Did you notice they mentioned the american blogger who got a press pass? Did you notice they did not in anyway say WHY he got it? I don't know, but i am sure that it must have been breaking some story, or doing something political. He didn't get it by getting a good shot of Jessica Simpson, but the way the presenter talked about it, it might as well have been.

yan

SiuTung

Do you know that? A lof of HK Chinese bloggers are discussing this programme too.

Tung

Oopps... I should elaborate more.

Many of HK Chinese bloggers are quite disappointed by the programme as well because the programme has reduced Blog into mere Online Diary written by young people listing their daily triviality.

However, I don't think there is any censorship (be it political or not) by the producer. It's just that what you said did not fit into their mindset or presupposition. Afterall, the conclusion of this programme is that parents should pay more attention to what their kids write! Their focus was on the young ones.

SiuTung

oooppss I am really sorry...... SiuTung is Tung. The above two comments were written by me.

renegade

i am glad you are going for the transcript. you should try to get on democracynow.org and let them interview you, or post a videoblog. peace.

hk

thanks for posting the transcript when you do. i can't believe it.

what is with the hong kong press, which seems to pussy foot around every single difficult subject when it has a chance to make a relevant inroad against the fortress mentality of the government and provid open communications channels for the good of the people? specifically in those kinds of cases.

hk

in fact, why not start a campaign against cable one? I think by posting the real transcript you are doing a great thing.

Glutterbug

Hi Tung,

Yes I read some of what the HK Bloggers are writing, the little I could from the track back. But the thing is, much like you and others in Hong Kong, you don't see it as censorship and gives all the excuses possible for the media to as HK said "Pussy foot" around the issues. The question is who is making those decisions to tell that story and who is choosing to make it about little kids? Someone, that happens to be the producer. The producer makes decisions to either politize the story or not, and they don't choose to and Hong Kong people like yourself, continue to not expect and demand responsibility from th e media and give them excuses.

Who are they to you?

They are not your friends, they are not people you have to respect, they are very powerful people who tell a story. They might not even be smarter than you or I or the woman who sells cigarettes on the streets.

So what. They are a bunch of people who hold the keys to the mass media. Why make excuses.

To be honest. How much more do you want to lose before people start demanding the real stories be told.

How many other political interviews gets cut into bullshit fluff every day? How many other people in Hong Kong have something to say but don't get to say it?

To be honest, the way people around me in Hong Kong have been acting, you're all complicit to the self censorship. It's starting to dawn on me that maybe it's our own damn fault we have such a shitty media. Not only because we buy it, but because we accept what they tell us and do part and parcel with not questions.

yan

Glutterbug

This is a comment that I left on a fellow blogger's post about the story. He said some very nice thing about what I said, and I thank him. But he also said that he doesn't blame the journalists for telling the story like it is, and not taking the oppotunity.

I say, of course we should blame the journalist and producer. Who the hell makes the decisions to tell the story the way they did? Them. They choose to when they didn't. Anyway here is the comment and Link to original post.

http://wilsonshum.blogspot.com/

---

Hi, thank you very much for your link and mention of me.

But I want to say, and I am very concerned by the way most so many people are giving excuses to the media for watering down a story to nothing.

Do you not all realize that some producer up in the office DECIDED to do a story for little kids and cut out politics, and the same decision could have easily been about politics and the democractic movement on blogs? Someone simply makes a decision and then follows it through, and how and why they make that decision depends on their political standing and whether self censorship is involved.

This was very obviously a self-censored story because what you didn't see was what I actually said and how they cut out all the politics of it.

It's not about time either. How much time did they give that boring as hell HK U professor to talk? Did he say anything interesting? Not really, in fact they kept repeating themselves. They could have given every other interview person another minute at least.

And if you know what they did to my interview, I wonder what they did to Leung Man Daos?

You know?

Don't give the media excuses anymore. It's time Hong Kong people demanded responsibilities from the press. We keep letting them tell pathetic stories then we no longer have a civil society. Not only can we not talk about it with friends, we can't talk about it on the media and soon, China can put a filter system on the internet and we can't even talk about it on the net.

Don't think it can't happen. It happens over the borders every day.

yan

ryanne / 1of@kind

hi glutter
here's another blogger commenting on the program:
http://sidekick.myblog.hk/archives/2005/04/30/511

btw, my friend in shanghai said he couldn't access my blog....not sure if i'm being censored too! :P

hk

Take it to the fucking television station! We need to protest and we need to raise a voice, united. They have to feel the pressure.

pig

Collection of HK blogger's discussion
http://del.icio.us/tag/hk_blog_discuss

無塵工作室

Manual trackback: http://richeyxx.blogspot.com/2005/05/politicalness-behind-tv-program-in.html

lolam

manual trackback.......
http://vitrine.blogspirit.com/archive/2005/05/02/關於《新增點》.html

Phil

Oh I know how this feels. In my professional life, irrespecive of hours of media training I have watched TV interviews where I thought I had my key points out in uneditable form and still been amazed at how they spliced things together.

On the one hand, the producer is trying to make everything fit his or her overview of how they want the segment to go. They will take anything out that moves away from that and cut everything you say down to soundbites. That is par for the course. However, as you would have no doubt made it absolutely clear that one of your key driving forces in blogging is your unquestioned desire for a more democratic Hong Kong to completely remove every political reference has a distinct smell of censorship and let's not rock the boat with the advertisers.

But this is the media and it is the same the world over. Every interview is technically censored. It is the battle bewteen interviewees and producers and is the reason why media training is such a big business.

Of course you have the last laugh - anyone who wanted to follow up will have come here and seen your version of it and will realise you have a lot more to say and worth listening to than they gave you credit for.

As they say, don't get mad, get even. That is the single most important power that blogging, in all its forms, has - removing business control from the dissemination of information - something I have rammed home in interviews myself and will be again on Tuesday on Channel News Asia.

BTW: I can't believe we were sitting next to each other in the Abyss and I did not realise it was you!

Cathy

eagerly waiting for your transript :)
Urgh sounds like they tried really hard to eradicate the 'sensitive' part of the interview.
Scary......

Harald

Just wondering: do you get the BBC in Hong Kong? 'Cause then you'd get some good examples of aggressive interviewing...

And if you mention 'Glutter' often enough (no matter what else comes across) - will people then not be able to find you?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)