(Sloonepix: In an interview with Oriental Daily chief-writer, Teoh Kia Hoon, Kuala Lumpur)

Whenever a good writer or editor decides to leave a newspaper, it raises eyebrows. And that is what exactly happenned recently in the Chinese media – Oriental Daily’s Teoh Kia Hoon handed in his resignation as chief writer and Op-Ed section editor last week, causing a stir in the Chinese press fraternity.

Teoh, also a poet and aspired to be an artist while in his teens and 20s, is well known in the Chinese media for his open-mindedness, independent thinking and his support for creativity and encouragement of young writers in the journalistic field. He seem to have learnt to be this way after being expelled from school at age 16, for so-called “leftist” tendencies and experienced hardship to make ends meet before embarking on a journey in the fourth estate.

While he served in Nanyang Siang Pau, the paper initiated a page dubbed the “Nanyang Forum” for alternative views and deeper analysis, which is always wanting in Chinese dailies prior to this. The section explored issues like local Chinese history, interviewed alternative, reformasi or Opposition leaders, including their grassroots (ordinary folks who were often ignored by the press). Politicians were not merely the highlight during Teoh’s reign in the daily as section editor.

Teoh, who was in Singapore for his education between years 1958-60 and 1965-76, left Nanyang before the controversial 2001 take over of the former and China Press by MCA.

When asked why he decided to leave Oriental Daily, Teoh said there were new developments in the newspaper. He did not want to elaborate further on this. “As I am still their employee”.

There were many attempts by his journalist friends and writers to persuade him to reconsider his decision to leave Oriental Daily, which can be considered the last bastion of press freedom as far as Chinese print media was concerned.

Journalist BH Ng said that almost all of the Chinese writers had persuaded him to stay on, for the sake of freedom of press.

“…as we know he is almost the only one who can defend the right of writers to choose what topics to write, to write what they want, in whatever styles, in whatever ideology, be it communism, leftist movement, labour movement, oppositions or young people, alternative voices”.

But it’s not just editors or journalists who were the culprits where (self) censorship was concerned.

Asked to comment about the current situation of press freedom in the country, Teoh said corporate leaders or investors usually sided with the authorities. When this happens, he added, it was possible for those with ulterior motives to find their way into the paper’s policies.

He reflected that the situation for press freedom in the country could only get worse, what with several major newspapers now being controlled by political parties.

Asked about his future plans and whether he might consider blogging his thoughts and opinions, Teoh didn’t say “no”. Hope he will find his way into blogsville, and add flavour to this growing fraternity of people who believe in freedom of expression.

10 responses »

  1. Crankshaft says:

    Actually, I find it very compelling to know about what the traditional Chinese are like and how they think. The typical stereotype (I know, stop rolling your eyes.. :grins:) is that they’re only interested in making money.

    But seriously, reading this post about a Chinese-medium journalist and freedom of press, was very eye-opening. I think at some point we’re still very segregated and we need to be in touch with each other.

    Thanks for this post!

  2. kasi naik says:

    every sunday – he himself booked the whole column to write -syiok sendiri- dont know what he is writing.

  3. hasilox says:

    Is he going to start blogging? Come join the lying bloggers.

  4. bahadur says:

    kasi naik – a writer sometimes just cannot be responsible for the degree of literacy of his/her readers. no offence.

  5. Crankshaft says:

    bahadur, nice kerplunk! 🙂

  6. monsterball says:

    Crankshaft….I am a Chinese …yet I do not know how some of my traditional people think too…hahahahaha
    For that matter…so are all races suffers from such dilemmas…..don’t you agree?
    Right now..my biggest problem…is finding out how my children and grandchildren thinks….as many times I feel …miles apart…or an alein….hahahahaha

  7. kasi naik says:

    bahadur – just ask around, how many people read Oriental Daily ??
    numbers speak for itself.
    if he is that good, Oriental alreadi the no.1 seller lar!!
    so u all can still syiok around with him lar- but may be 3 or 4 lar.

  8. Crankshaft says:

    Fair enough. I’m not in touch with my own roots either, monsterball..

  9. monsterball says:

    kaisi naik…In terms of votes, if Oriental Daily can influence 3 or 4 , they are inflencial….but your presumption is totally out of proportion…as a paper must have a certain large minimum to survive….so perhaps 30,000 or 40,000?
    Wow that’s threateningly influencial to who ever they want to influence…against whoever they wish. That’s the power of newspapers.

  10. mochii says:

    nice background :p

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