Monthly newsletter: June 2018

Message from Keith

The last six weeks or so seemed particularly grim for what has already been a terrible year for the media in Asia.

First, on April 30, came the horrific news from Afghanistan that 10 journalists were killed on a single day, nine while responding to a suicide blast in the capital, Kabul, and the 10th shot and killed in a separate incident in Khost, near the Pakistan border.

Then came news from Malaysia of the first conviction under that country’s new “fake news” law, against a Yemeni-born Danish citizen for a YouTube video he posted criticising the police response time to a shooting in Kuala Lumpur.

And in Cambodia, May began with the sacking of the top editor of the country’s last independent newspaper, The Phnom Penh Post, followed by the resignation of several editors and reporters in protest. The newspaper had published a story about how the paper’s new Malaysian owner had previously carried out public relations work for Prime Minister Hun Sen. The Cambodian leader has been shutting critical media outlets and harassing political opponents ahead of elections due in July.

With the continuing suppression of journalists and independent media in Thailand, Myanmar and elsewhere, supporters of a free and independent media as a vital component of democracy had every reason to feel depressed.

Yet out of Malaysia on May 9 came one reason to cheer.

There, on May 9, the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition, led by nonagenarian former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, ousted the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, which has led the country under de facto one-party rule since independence in 1957. The defeated coalition was led by the United Malays National Organization or UMNO, whose leader and prime minister, Najib Razak, has been accused of corruption on an epic scale. Nearly US$700 million was discovered in Najib’s personal bank account, with the money believed funnelled from the country’s sovereign wealth fund, known as 1MBD. Najib has denied allegations of corruption, saying the money was a gift.

For the past 60 years, the hold on power by UMNO and Barisan came in part from their near-total control of the media. State-controlled newspapers and television stations became nothing more than slavish mouthpieces for the ruling coalition. And successive governments, but particularly Najib's, used the British colonial-era Sedition Act to stifle critical reporting.

But the digital era has seen the emergence of some new, brave, scrappy and independent websites like Malaysiakini, which bucked the trend and reported on corruption in the ruling party. Some, like The Malaysian Insider and print publications owned by the Edge Media Group, were forced to shut down. But not before news of massive graft allegations and the 1MBD scandal had permeated the public consciousness.

I’m lucky that my team and I will be leading a group of JMSC undergraduates to Kuala Lumpur this month where we will get a first-hand look at what might now be a changed media landscape. The stunning election result, and the repudiation of the old government, is a testament to the power of independent media and tough, fact-based reporting that holds power to account. It also shows how in the internet era, new outlets operating on a shoestring can break the monopoly of the state-controlled media and provide real news that can make a difference.

Expect a backlash. Other autocrats planning elections soon—like Hun Sen in Cambodia, or the generals ruling Thailand—may decide to crack down even harder on the media in their countries.

But for the moment, supporters of a free press should simply savour this one victory. After the pileup of stories about diminished revenues, vanishing audiences, declining public trust, and after all the continuous threats and the derogatory cries of “fake news,” we sure needed this one.

Let’s celebrate today. Tomorrow it’s back to the trenches.

Keith Richburg
Director of the JMSC

NOTE: This monthly bulletin will be taking a break for the summer, as the students all depart and many of the JMSC instructors head to various far-flung parts for research, writing, and time off. We’ll be back in September. Have a great summer, everyone, and see you when we begin the new semester.

Work by 10 JMSC students in Kees Metselaar's photojournalism course in recent years were chosen for an exhibit of student photography at the Foreign Correspondents' Club from 2-11 May. The wall exhibition, Young Lenses, showcased photographs by students from our programme, Hong
Kong Baptist University, City University of Hong Kong, and SCAD Hong Kong. Master of Journalism student Tongtong Li spoke to a few of the exhibiting photographers in this piece for the JMSC website. (Top photo by Tongtong Li)
Students from one of our key exchange partners, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, visited the JMSC from 21-24 May as part of their annual Asia tour. Fourteen UNC School of Media and Journalism undergraduates met with our alumna Audrey Kabilova at Eliot Hall where she spoke about her experience in the Bachelor of Journalism programme and career in corporate communications.
We wrapped up the school year with farewell parties for our graduating class. The Bachelor of Journalism students kicked off the festivities with drinks on 11 May in Central, while the Master of Journalism students celebrated the completion of their capstone project on 25 May
over in Kowloon. Faculty members, staff and alumni sent off our undergrads and postgrads as they embark on a new phase of their education and careers.
AAJA-Asia's N3Con: New Now Next Media Conference was back at the University of Hong Kong this year with a packed schedule of panels and workshops. Held over three days from 25-27 May, the event was well-attended by journalists from around the world. A team of JMSC students
volunteered at the conference, and a number of our staff and alumni, including Erin Hale, Diana Jou, Masato Kajimoto, Keith Richburg and Isabel Wong, were among the speakers and moderators.
Student & Alumni News
This year's Master of Journalism students capped off their programme with a four-week Popup Newswire from 30 April-25 May where they were given the opportunity to experience the challenges and rewards of working in a newsroom environment. The capstone project
consisted of both online and studio-based components for students to put their journalism education into practice. Students contributed to stories and a weekly TV news roundup in their various roles, from managing editor and multimedia reporter to producer and anchor.
A group of second-year Bachelor of Journalism students travelled to Tokyo at the beginning of May with Masato for a news literacy workshop at Waseda University. Along with 15 students from Waseda, the four JMSC students went through two days of intensive training on news literacy, fact-checking and verification, then split into groups to work on specific case studies that they presented at a public symposium on May 6. 
Nancy Tong and Ruby Yang held a screening of the four documentaries produced by their students this semester on 18 May. Yiduan Wu spoke with some of the students about their experience throughout the production process for a short piece on the website.
Keith Richburg, Matt Walsh and Kevin Lau are leading nine undergraduate journalism students on a reporting trip to Kuala Lumpur in the first week of June where they will conduct reporting on sustainable development in Southeast Asia. The trip is supported by the Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Fund.
Sunway Education Group will be hosting our team of student reporters and providing advice by experts from the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University. During the trip the students will attend a three-day sustainable development goals workshop before embarking on reporting trips.
Students are expected to develop publishable stories and take part in the development of a book series about Sunway City's role as a sustainable city.
Faculty & Staff News
The Foreign Correspondents' Club held a screening of The Post in honour of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May. Prior to the screening, Keith joined Kurt Tong, U.S. Consul General for Hong Kong and Macau, for a discussion about the threats to press freedom and impact on free societies around the world. A recording of the discussion can be found here.
Keith returned to his high school in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, to receive the University Liggett School 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award. During his visit from 18-19 May, Keith also spent time with students to share his experience as a foreign correspondent.
Dr. King-wa Fu travelled across Europe last month to speak about our new WeChatscope project. He gave a talk at the University of Vienna on 17 May at the invitation of the Department of East Asian Studies. On 22 May, he spoke at the 16th Chinese Internet Research Conference in Leiden, the Netherlands.
King-wa also attended the annual conference of the International Communication Association in Prague from 24-28 May, where he was a co-author of several papers, including two presented by Chung-hong Chan (PhD, JMSC). Current doctoral student Yuner Zhu also contributed to one of the papers about cyberbalkanization. King-wa ended his tour in Germany with talks at the Institute of Chinese Studies at Heidelberg University on 28 May, and lastly at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin on 30 May.
Benjamin Zhou of the Transparency Project co-organised and spoke at two sessions at the RightsCon 2018 conference in Toronto (16-18 May) -- "Transparency Reporting: The New Frontier" and "Tactics for advancing digital rights in developing economies and challenging political contexts: an RDR perspective".
Selected Work by Faculty & Staff

6 May – South China Morning Post: Donald Trump, the Nobel-worthy peacemaker in Korea? It's not so far-fetched,  by Keith B. Richburg

7 May – Ming Pao:「第三者資料」成政府資訊公開最大敵人 (In Chinese), by Benjamin Zhou and King-wa Fu

12 May – South China Morning Post: Why would Kim Jong-un trust Trump now he’s ripped up Iran’s nuclear deal?, by Keith B. Richburg

25 May – South China Morning Post: Trump Kim talks: the art of no deal, by Keith B. Richburg

31 May – U.S. News & World Report: Pirates of the Caribbean – and Africa, and Asia, co-written by Kevin Lau

Coming up

Keith will be on a panel of speakers at the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong on 14 June to discuss the potential effect of the US midterm elections in November, "The Midterms: Why They Matter".

The Hong Kong Documentary Initiative is hosting a workshop on how to design a winning film distribution strategy with leading distribution strategist Peter Broderick on 16 June at Eliot Hall. As president of Paradigm Consulting, Peter has helped over 1,400 US and international films maximise distribution, audiences, and revenues. More info here.

Masato will be attending the fifth Global Fact-Checking Summit, Global Fact 5, in Rome from 20-22 June to talk about misinformation ecosystem research in Asia. The event is organized by the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter Institute in partnership with Pagella Politica, the main political fact-checking website in Italy.

Ruby will be attending several screenings of her latest documentary, Ritoma, in Hong Kong this month. On 22 June, Professor Leo Lee Ou Fan will moderate a discussion with Ruby at Tai Kwun (details to come). Jampa Dhunhup and Bill Johnson, who are featured in the documentary, will join Ruby at Broadway Cinematheque on 27 June and at the Asia Society on 28 June. Screenings of the film will also be held across the U.S. Details here.

King-wa and our post-doctoral fellow Yun Tai will be presenting a paper on the WeChatscope project at the 4th Annual International Conference on Computational Social Science (12-15 July) at the Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Illinois.

In July, Masato will be speaking about the JMSC MOOC, "Making Sense of the News", at the 9th TCU International e-learning Conference 2018. The annual conference is organised by Thailand's Office of the Commission on Higher Education and Thailand Cyber University Project and will be held in Bangkok from 19-20 July. Later in the month from 23-24 July, Masato will also be attending the Google News Lab Summit in Singapore to share his research in misinformation research in Asia.

King-wa and his team are organising a symposium on digital research into media and politics on 24 August at the University of Hong Kong. The one-day event is co-organized with the Society for Hong Kong Studies and will feature local scholars and graduate students, as well as speakers from Sejong University, University of Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée and University of Vienna, among others. Details will soon be announced on our website.