I recall some years ago just prior to June 1997, having an exchange of views with a non Hong Kong based western journalist who was, to put it mildly, "exercised" by what he saw as an impending crackdown over Hong Kong's freedom of the media. My opinion then, as now, was that press freedom would be largely unchanged unless any Hong Kong newspaper owners decided that self-censorship would enhance their "standing" in the eyes of our new leaders - whether located in Hong Kong or Beijing.
A significant cornerstone of any free society should be one that allows the media to report fairly and freely on the issues that surround us - however unpalatable they may be. And I believe that Hong Kong has passed that test. But does that also give the media a right to pass-off gratuitous and insulting phrases under the "freedom" banner?
One journalist who regularly tilts at windmills but who chooses to do so by selecting certain facts, and ignoring others that might make his stories less interesting (such is the nature of the newspaper business), is the SCMP's Jake van der Kamp. He can be entertaining, occasionally lets the air out of tyres that need it, and is sometimes more objectionable than objective when he lets a "personal peeve" get in the way. But on balance he is a positive contributor to the opinions of the business community.
Today, however, he has overstepped the mark. His "Monitor" column reads "Every sheikhdom in the Gulf now vies with (Singapore) to become Asia's premier money-laundering centre...". I was not aware that Mr van der Kamp had such an extensive knowledge of the Gulf that would put him in a position to comment so freely, in the certainty that what he was reporting was fair comment - however unpalatable it might be, if true. Although of no concern to Mr van der Kamp, I am sure that such a statement will not help the Hong Kong Government's cause in furthering their desires to become an Islamic Finance Centre - but more on that particular subject from me, soon.