Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Japan prime ministers haunted by ever-present media

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Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama at a news conference on April 28, 2010. (REUTERS/Toru Hanai)


JAPAN-POLITICS/It’s not unusual for a politician whose popularity has slumped to want to avoid the media. But for Japan’s premiers it’s not just a question of keeping critical newspaper editorials out of sight.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, just like his five predecessors, faces questioning from a posse of reporters morning and evening at least five days a week. And just like his predecessors, he seemed to find these brief  “doorstep news conferences” exhilarating while voter support for his government soared around the 70 percent level after a landslide election victory last year.

Now that only about 20 percent of Japanese say they support him in the run-up to a key upper house election, Hatoyama has visibly lost enthusiasm for commenting twice a day on camera. At first known for lengthy explanations, he has become increasingly curt. He even admitted recently that he’d prefer to skip the doorsteps in favour of holding more frequent sit-down news conferences, inviting a broader range of reporters from magazines and internet outlets.  ”But this is the custom,” he said forlornly.

Dream job or snake pit? UN appoints new spokesman

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By Patrick Worsnip

It’s not uncommon for journalists at some point in their careers to cross the barricades and become the people who dish out the news as spokespersons for an organization or firm, rather than being on the receiving end. It requires a different set of skills that can make the transition tough, and a stern test confronts former Reuters correspondent Martin Nesirky, who has just been appointed spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. After a high-flying career at Reuters that saw him fill senior editorial positions in London, Berlin, Moscow and Seoul, Nesirky has had some time to acclimatize to his new role by working for more than three years as spokesman for the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), based in Vienna. But the move to New York brings much more formidable challenges.

Like any U.N. spokesperson, Nesirky, a Briton, will have to take into account the concerns of the 192 nations that belong to the world body. That’s 192 different governments that can get upset by something he might say. But his chief problem may be his boss Ban, whose public image, to put it mildly, could take a little burnishing. Aside from his awkward use of English, which has television producers tearing their hair, Ban has had a rough ride from hostile media that have accused him of failing to use his position to end the world’s conflicts and right its wrongs. (Defenders say he is more effective than he appears, works tirelessly behind closed doors, and has made at least some progress on such intractable issues as climate change, global poverty and the crisis in Darfur.)

Then there is the sprawling and ill-defined nature of the U.N. press and public relations operation, with different officials and factions competing for the secretary-general’s attention and waiting to pounce on any mis-step by one of the others. The outgoing spokeswoman, Michele Montas of Haiti, stuck to the job for less than three years. In trying to stay close to the South Korean secretary-general, Nesirky could benefit from his knowledge of the Korean language from his time in Seoul. He is also married to a South Korean. But these advantages too could be a double-edged sword. U.N. diplomats have long complained that Ban is happiest in a Korean comfort zone and relies too much on a compatriot who serves as his deputy chief-of-staff, Kim Won-soo.

from The Great Debate UK:

Past and present: a correspondent in Iraq

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Tim Cocks-Tim Cocks is a Reuters correspondent in Iraq.-

This month we reported that the number of civilians dying violent deaths in Iraq had hit a fresh low since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion -- about 125 for September.

Sounds like a lot, but for a country that only two years ago was seeing dozens of bodies pile up in the streets each day from tit-for-tat sectarian killing, it was definitely progress.

What the election campaign says about Germans

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Strikingly different election campaign styles in Germany and Britain, especially parties’ contrasting use of the media, provide some intriguing insights into the political traditions of the two nations.

in Britain, the parties hold daily news conferences, broadcast live, where leaders attempt to set an agenda for the day — be it on health, tax or education — and then get grilled by the press corps.

from FaithWorld:

Beware brain scientists bearing gifts (gee-whiz journalists too…)

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boot-camp-shirt1Knowing what not to report is just as important for journalists as knowing what to write. We're inundated with handouts about some pioneering new scientific research or insightful new book. Should we write about it? It's refreshing to hear experts who can dazzle you with their work but warn against falling for any hype about it. This "let's not overdo it" approach has been a recurrent theme in the Neuroscience Boot Camp I'm attending at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. (Photo: The "official" boot camp T-shirt, 8 Aug 2009/Tom Heneghan)

Andrew Newberg's "no God spot" message to boot campers has already been noted here on FaithWorld. Other lecturers added similar reality checks to their presentations. Cognitive science has already begun to influence religion studies (as John Teehan explained here) and we're bound to hear more in the future about what neuroscientific research has to say about faith, morals, altruism and other issues of interest to readers of this blog. Much of this will be fascinating. But before the next "gee-whiz" report comes out, here's the advice the neuroscientists are giving us about speculative claims based on brain research.

Is Malaysia’s net clampdown at odds with knowledge economy?

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The opposition wants to cut the sale of alcohol in a state that it rules and now the government wants to restrict Internet access .

Malaysia is a multicultural country of 27 million people in Southeast Asia. It has a majority Muslim population that of course is not allowed to drink by religion. Yet clearly some do as shown by the sentencing to caning for a young woman handed down recently

from FaithWorld:

Could gagged Mumbai confession do more good than harm?

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hindux1A crucial part of gunman Mohammad Ajmal Kasab's hindu-articleconfession at the Mumbai attack trial has been censored by the judge on the grounds that it could inflame religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India. After stunning the court on Monday by admitting guilt in the the three-day rampage that killed 166 people, Kasab gave further testimony on Tuesday that included details about his training by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based militant group on U.S. and Indian terrorist lists.

The front-page report in today's The Hindu, which noted the judge's gag order in its sub-header, put it this way:

Sex education again in Malaysia, thanks to the courts

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By Niluksi Koswanage

Gay Austrian fashionista Bruno will not be making an appearance on Malaysia’s screens this summer for fear of corrupting this mostly-Muslim nation’s youth.

But Malaysia’s parents will still not have it easy as the country’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim  is again on trial for sodomy in a re-run of a 14-month case that in 1998 generated endless sexually explicit headlines and questions from curious children.

Back to the future in Malaysia with Anwar sodomy trial II

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By Barani Krishnan

A decade ago, Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was on trial for sodomy and corruption in a trial that exposed the seamy side of Malaysian justice and the anxieties of a young country grappling with a crushing financial crisis and civil unrest.

Anwar is Malaysia’s best known political figure, courted in the U.S. and Europe and probably the only man who can topple the government that has led this Southeast Asian country for the past 51 years.

Austrian far-right leader isolated over Israel stance

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Senior figures from across Austria’s political spectrum have condemned the head of the far-right Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, over his party’s European election campaign directed against Israel and Turkey.

In an advertisement in the newspaper Kronen Zeitung, Freedom opposes the accession of Turkey and Israel to the European Union. Although Turkey is in EU accession talks, Israel is not.

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