Impacts of Journalism
Far Eastern Economic Review
Excerpt from Wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far_Eastern_Economic_Review
Journalism and impact
Derek Davies, editor during those glory years, and Richard Hughes, the Australian doyen of the Foreign Correspondents Club, were part of the Review legend. Davies, a hard-charging Welshman, defied numerous Asian governments and big businesses and provided a frontline forum for many talented reporters: Emily Lau, Gary Coull, Bertil Linter, David Bonavia, Ian Buruma, Nayan Chanda, Nate Thayer, Susumu Awanohara, Christopher Wood, Philip Bowring, as well as dissidents TJS George and late Mike O'Neill, who went on to launch rival, Asiaweek.
Other legends include the late MGG Pillai and Tarzie Vittachi and his son Nury Vittachi, who delighted thousands by keeping up a steady patter as the guiding light of “Traveller’s Tales”, its humour column. TJS George wrote a nasty little book taking a sceptical look at Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore, and then founded Asiaweek. Alas that too went by the wayside eventually.
K. Nadarajah was felled with the enforced departure of a generation of some of the brightest from The Star, Malaysia's most widely-read English language daily. The late K. Das did yeoman work as the Kuala Lumpur correspondent of the Review through the late 1970s and 1980s. Morgan Chua, a discovery of the Singapore Herald, took his cartooning skills to the Review after the Herald fell foul of Lee Kuan Yew & Co. (The brightest and the best always did.)
Ho Kwon Ping of the Singapore Times went on to the Review, and ended up being detained for his “pro-communist” reports. Anything nasty or sceptical was automatically labelled pro-communist in those days by Singapore's Straits Special Branch. Canadian-born Murray Heibert, the Review’s Kuala Lumpur correspondent, was jailed for reporting that a judge's wife filed a $2.4 million suit against her son's school because the school dropped him from the its debating team. The Malaysian judicial system decided that Murray had besmirched the “honour” of the judiciary.
In its 60-plus years, the Review hammered away at the walls of Asian despotism, shining a light through the chinks. It was regularly banned, especially in Singapore. And it was regularly sued. Especially, of course, in Singapore where the political family of Lee, Lee, Lee & Lee brooked no interference. A press law was promulgated in Singapore because of the Review.
Its journalists have a long and honourable record of being locked up or expelled from countries throughout Asia for incurring the wrath of regional leaders whose sins or foibles it exposed.
Many of the magazine's reporters came from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. But they were people who made Asia their home and whose clear-eyed reporting grew from a long and intense love affair with the region. They had a reputation for knowing the countries in which they worked better than any foreign correspondent and often with greater insight and better connections than local journalists.
In 1997, the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge and author of the "killing fields" genocide, was interviewed by Nate Thayer, then the Review’s Cambodia correspondent. Pol Pot was in hiding for 18 years, and Nate was the first reporter to track him down. The story was an international sensation.
“For someone who grew up dreaming about swashbuckling journalists reporting from far-flung places, there was no greater model than the Far Eastern Economic Review,” wrote one journalist. The article recalls John McBeth who, battling Suharto's oppressive regime in Indonesia, continued reporting even after losing a leg to disease. In 1975, FEER’s Calcutta-born Nayan Chanda was the last reporter left in the presidential palace in Saigon when North Vietnamese tanks broke through the palace gates and unplugged the telex, cutting Chanda off mid-broadcast.
Salil Tripathi, a former regional economics correspondent for the magazine, reminisces, “FEER was special because it stared back at Asia’s businesses and politicians at a time when few journalists in the region could speak truth to power. Some of FEER’s foreign correspondents were tried, jailed, expelled, harassed or followed; some were accused of sedition, contempt of court and defamation; its editors fined, its issues banned. Leaders resented the magazine because it would not bow or kowtow. An invading army might march in, but Nayan Chanda would continue to type his story till the North Vietnamese switched off power supply. Unfazed by the malarial jungle, Nate Thayer would not give up looking for Pol Pot. With calm forbearance, Bertil Lintner would bring the Myanmarese story to the world. Ian Buruma would cast light on culture, revealing nuances the region’s elite often preferred leaving unsaid. FEER’s intrepid financial reporters would figure out who hid what assets where. I remember the sleepless week in Jakarta when the Suharto regime tottered: Margot Cohen talking to people on the streets, John McBeth checking on troop movements, Michael Vatikiotis chasing politicians and academics, while I was with Anastasia Fanny Lioe in Glodok and Tangerang, where Chinese-owned shops and malls were burnt and ransacked, prompting ethnic Chinese people and capital to flee.”
The golden age of the Review was the 25 years from 1964 when former British spy in Vietnam, Derek Davies, was editor. His weekly "Traveller's Tales" column is still some of the most delightful journalism of the last half century.
BBC reports that the closure will mark the end of an era for challenging journalism in Asia. Because of FEER's independent reporting, many authoritarian governments used to black out its pages or ban it outright, the report said. "It was a tremendously exciting place to work," said Philip Bowring, "It was the place where up-and-coming journalists would go, because they were given an opportunity to prove that they were good."