Category Archives: Media

Changping: “Governor Li’s Misjudgement”

This is a translation of this piece by Changping about Hubei Govenor Li Hongzhong and related ideas about media and press freedom:

Translation

Although Premier Wen Jiabao memorized quite a few poetic phrases at the press conference, for many media outlets, the most memorable event of this year’s National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (两会) was the “Hongzhong pen snatching” incident. On March 7th, during an interview with journalists, Hubei Governor Li Hongzhong heard a female reporter ask about the Deng Yujiao case [a woman that killed an official when threatened by him with rape – Ed.]. To much surprise, he didn’t directly respond; rather, he turned the question around and asked the reporter which media outlet she was with, and declared that would find the director of her office. Even more surprising, Governor Li reached out his hand and snatched the reporter’s recording pen. Hours passed before a worker returned the pen to its owner.

Some have cited article 263 of China’s criminal law – robbery, the act of illegally acquiring something, and using violence or coercion against its owner or guardian, using force to steal public or private property – and believe Governor Li can be considered a robbery suspect. On the other hand, Governor Li believes an apology isn’t even worth considering in this situation. His explanation for this action: “We were worried that she was not a reporter, so we took the recording pen and [investigated].”

This is a very interesting explanation. Governor Li suspicions were due to the Deng Yujiao case. Why bring up this question, [Li wonders]? Maybe this isn’t a reporter after at all! Obviously, Governor Li believes that in these circumstances,  even if a reporter has not undergone special screening and coaching, reporters still ought to understand enough to ask only “direct” questions, allowing a leader to easily respond and allow a reader to feel society’s harmony.

Governor Li’s judgment comes in part from his experience and in part from his knowledge of our society, and in fact his assumptions aren’t at all out of line in this case. Domestic reporters participating in the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference indeed will receive some very severe restrictions, and at the same time will have a very strong sense of self-discipline; they will almost never ask “messy” questions. In times past, almost all reporters were like this, and today most of them still are.

A few years ago, when Li Hongzhong was simultaneously appointed Shenzhen’s party secretary and mayor, he began his term with the inspirational phrase “In Shenzhen, please supervise me first,” and declared “Today I am promising to

Governor Li in a classic pose

embark on a great task, and I ask not only all comrades in the Party to supervise me, I also welcome all citizens of the city and those from all circles and walks of life, and all media outlets to supervise me.” Some people are surprised to contrast those words with his present attitudes. Actually Li Hongzhong sees no contradiction between his past words and present actions. After his pen-snatching incident, he still gave reporters the same speech he gave in Shenzhen. There are quite a few other officials that enthusiastically welcome media scrutiny. The reason these officials are so bold is because they believe that the media is something that can be controlled, and it has already been thoroughly trained. They already understand what to ask and what not to ask.

Some people had been expecting domestic reporters to ask questions regarding the Li Hongzhong incident at the premier’s press conference. These people’s estimation of the current political situation are no more precise than Governor Li’s: opportunities to ask questions all happened to fall in the laps of reporters from media outlets like People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency, CCTV and CPBS. For these media outlets, reporters asking “messy” questions is a serious political mistake.

The mistake in Governor Li’s judgment lies in the fact that he hasn’t realized the change that’s occurred in the media. First, the commercialization and growth of professionalism in media has already been underway for a number of years. The reporter that asked Governor Li such troubling questions, Ms. Liujie, comes from Jinghua Times […]: Governor Li believed she wasn’t a reporter at all. Conversely, in the eyes of these professionals, reporters like her are the only real reporters. Whether it is from a commercial perspective or for the sake of professionalism, reporters ought not become the mouthpiece of the leadership by asking superficial or even flattering questions. If my suspicions are correct, Jinghua Times will not punish Ms. Liu, because in this event the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Secondly, Governor Li has ignored the growth of the internet. In earlier times, it would be as if the event had never happened except for the pressure placed on the media outlets and reporters present during the event. But nowadays, regardless of the controls placed on it, the internet occupies a larger space than traditional media outlets and has fewer restrictions. Even though many media outlets do not receive explicit prohibitions, they still remain self-consciously silent when dealing with officials of a high enough level. But netizens don’t have this kind of media “upbringing”, and in fact will exert pressure on traditional media workers to examine their own self-discipline and then break the rules, seek out new reporting opportunities, and interact with the internet community.

In the end, this event sparked opposition from both those in the media and others from all parts of society. Within two days of a written statement of opposition circulating online, it had already gathered over 800 signatures. […the statement asks authorities] to seriously examine organizational measures of removing Governor Li’s status as a governor and his position as a representative in the National People’s Congress.”

Governor Li can relax: the National People’s Congress will not pay attention to this matter. Therefore the written statement of opposition declares: “This opposition need not unrealistically pursue success, but nonetheless we must in all conscience still offer opposition.” Many people do not realize that even opposition without success has value. In a normal society, opposition itself is part of politics.

But those in opposition to this event must also face this question: Why is the case of a reporter’s recording pen being snatched such a big deal? In comparison to China’s “corpse robbery” events, is it really that important?

A similar problem was also discussed in Hong Kong. During last year’s “July 5th” Xinjiang incident, Hong Kong reporters were detained and assaulted by mainland police; this set off large scale protest actions. Some have wondered, if reporters often meet frustration, why does every little thing have to cause a big uproar? Are reporters taking advantage of special media rights to advance themselves?

First of all, I believe that opposition activities, however small, need to be carried out.  Everyone is entitled to equal rights regardless of their position, and if any one person receives unjust treatment, everyone can oppose this. Certainly, the world has even bigger injustices than the “corpse robbery” incident, but that does not mean we should require people to stop opposing it.

Secondly, just as this written statement of protest says, “To fight for dignity in the news is to fight for dignity of the people.” The “special rights” that the media possesses are actually its public nature. Unlike what some people may claim, traditional media is all state-owned, and the government will use it for its own purposes. Internet media is all private enterprise, and can delete and post whatever it likes. In the view of professionals in the media, the media is a public instrument, regardless of who the boss is. This is because the product it sells is are the public fruits of free speech. The media should adopt this sort of viewpoint when defining its own objectives. In this way, controlling the media’s right to interview [leaders] is indeed a serious issue.

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Translation: “A Record of the Ancient Dove’s Migration”

On March 27th, the Chongqing Evening News published a remarkable story. Defying the direct orders of official government bureaus forbidding Chinese media to hype the Google fiasco, the Chongqing Evening News ran a story about a mythical bird whose name sounds just like the Chinese word for Google and whose story sounds, well, familiar. You may have seen this story in brief on EastSouthWestNorth, but we wanted to translate it in full because we found it so remarkable that something this brazen was published in a mainstream newspaper. We imagine some heads at the Chongqing Evening News will roll because of this.

Translation

We have translated this somewhat loosely in the hopes of conveying more clearly the parallels with the real Google story, but readers of Chinese should read the Chinese for the full, pun-tastic effect. We also moved one sentence from the middle of the text to the beginning because it read oddly in English otherwise.

The “Ancient Dove” [sounds like “Google”] is clearly very close to extinction within China, it is a bird hard to find when one “searches” […] It is held that this bird is the forbear of all modern birds, so it is called “Ancient Dove”.

This species originated in North America according to biologists, who believe the bird to have come from the area of present-day Santa Clara. By the turn of the century, the bird could be found everywhere. After March 23, 2010, the species began a large-scale costal migration in China, towards a southern port, and vanished from China.

Google - the "Ancient Pigeon"
Google: the Ancient Dove
Ecologists suspect the bird’s odd behavior is connected to the extreme climate changes happening in recent years, especially the ecological, environmental, climate and geological calamities in China. When met with adversity, the Ancient Dove cannot persevere as tenaciously as the Grass Mud Horse, so it raised the flag of retreat, attracting the disdain of some of the world’s animal lovers.

Special Characteristics

Its shoulders are draped with blue, yellow, red, and green feathers, and it is a bit bigger than the common dove. Its call sounds like the English word “googol”; Native Americans believe that this sound represents an “unbelievable number”. Mathematicians performed rigorous calculations and believe this number is probably ten to the hundredth power.

Environment

The Ancient Dove has an extremely strong capacity for adaptation, and can evolve quickly to become a new, indigenous subspecies. For example, at present there are large populations of American Ancient Doves, Japanese Ancient Doves, British Ancient Doves, and other subspecies. Because archaeology has proven the original Ancient Dove came from America, we often refer to the American Ancient Dove as “Ancient Dove”, and attach the name of the country they are located in to identify other subspecies.

The story in the Chongqing Evening News
Early research has shown that the Ancient Dove’s leaving may give rise [to the dominance] of another, long-clawed bird that looks just like the Ancient Dove but is actually a bird of prey: the “Paidu Bird” [sounds like “Baidu”, Google’s chief domestic competition]. The numbers of this ancient legendary domestic bird are presently expanding explosively. Now, Chinese people can only use this poisonous, ferocious bird, whose calls are in Chinese and who loves only money to fulfill the Ancient Dove’s function.

Habits

Living in groups, the subspecies in each country may excel at different things. The Ancient Dove eats anything with words on it, and can naturally estimate the relative worth of food. It performs advanced calculations to decide the proper sequence [in which to eat].

As you know, its mortal enemies are the “River Crabs” [sounds like “harmony”, a reference to government censorship], the “Wenzuo Crabs” [sounds like “the Chinese Writer’s Association“, which is also associated with censorship], and other types of Chinese crabs.

Current Population

In the world, there are an estimated 120 billion Ancient Doves, but they have already mostly disappeared from the Chinese mainland. What were once Chinese Ancient Doves have migrated to Hong Kong, so there is a downward trend in the worldwide population.

Many animal lovers went to the Beijing Ancient Dove santuary before March 23, 2010, to express their grief.

Our Thoughts

It is fascinating that the talking-about-it-without-talking-about-it approach to discussing politics in China has spilled over from the internet and into the real world. This is, of course, not the first time, but it is the latest example of a kind of “news” that could never have been written or understood anywhere but China, where it seems sometimes a true story can be told only mythologizing and anthropomorphizing it. Could it also be the beginning of a trend, or will the censors head it off at the pass by making an example of the folks at the Chongqing Evening News? What will happen to them remains to be seen. But their having the guts to publish a story like this in the face of harsh warnings not to address the Google issue sympathetically shows a spirit that I think the now-exiled Ancient Doves would be proud of.

Ran Yunfei: “Domestic Microblogs Exist to Die in Battle”

The following is a translation of a recent blog post from oft-censored activist Ran Yunfei. Having had his blogs on Tianya and Niubo shut down by web administrators for discussion of sensitive topics, Ran has taken to setting up as many blogs as possible (including an English-language blog, ‘Collection of a Gangster’s Words’) in a constant effort to stay one step ahead of the censors.

In this post, Ran talks about his feelings on microblogging, with a particular focus on the relationship between Twitter and the increasingly numerous Chinese microblogging services. He explains how the two can be used together to “demolish the tower of lies”.

Photo from shizhao (http://www.flickr.com/photos/shizhao/)

Translation

Ran begins by summarising the short history of microblogging in China:

Since the birth of ‘web 2.0’ age broadcasting tools like Twitter, the Chinese internet, which lacks creativity but has a definite ability for imitation, has rolled out Jiwai, Taotao, Zuosha and other such cloned products, and has put a lot of hard work into the rapid dissemination of all sorts of information […]. During the “Xinjiang July 5th matter” [when racial tensions caused rioting in the northwestern province], Fanfou’s broadcasting function suddenly exploded, and was met with the strong fist of repression, and died an honourable death, signifying that a re-shuffling of Chinese microblogging had arrived. The authorities’ repression of Fanfou made the internet latecomers […] realise the collective power of the popularity of microblogging. So, […] Sina, Sougou, QQ, Netease, People’s Daily Online and others rolled out their own microblogging services, and they all took a share of the spoils.

He goes on to identify the difficulties faced by domestic microblogs in comparison to Twitter:

[…] The stream of users on the BBS of each big website is gradually being split up by blogs and microblogs, the reason being that blogs and microblogs allow more freedom, and a bolder scale of expression. But following the arrival of the cold stream of total control of the Chinese internet, complete control and screening has caused the scale of speech and expression to suffer deep repression. Twitter’s biggest difference to domestic microblogging services lies in its lack of auditing [by any organisation other than itself], its [policy of] not deleting any posts, its real freedom of speech and multi-faceted opening up; it has realised unobstructed broadcasting to the utmost. When compared with Twitter, domestic blogging services don’t seem like web 2.0 age broadcasting tools; they can only be seen as deformities of the web 2.0 age.

Ran then lays out his method for avoiding censorship. He encourages Chinese microbloggers who are able to access Twitter to use it for the exchange and storage of information, and explains how domestic microblogs can be used to broadcast this information to the masses in China:

With Twitter being blocked [by the Chinese government], and domestic microblogs self-destructing, web 2.0-age broadcasting tools have suffered heavy difficulties, and people’s right to view online information freely has been greatly encroached upon. […] [Netizens’] method is to have a fixed Twitter account and, according to their own interests, publish and broadcast information to their hearts’ content, because it’s a headquarters for the retention of data and truth. At the same time, [netizens] apply for an account on a microblog on one of the many big [Chinese] websites, and send as many governmentally-blocked truths as possible onto a microblog that does not require them to scale the Great Firewall. They needn’t fear that [the truths] may be deleted by administrators, because they [also] have an account on the most stable place for the retention of truth. You could say that they can ‘attack by charging, defend by fleeing’ [a saying meaning ‘to have an advantageous position in battle’]. In theory, unless microblog administrators close down your IP, you can apply for domestic microblog services an unlimited number of times, resiliently continuing to broadcast the truth, putting your own effort into demolishing the tower of lies.

…he elaborates on the potential of this “trickle irrigation” method, and gives real-life examples of its successful use:

[…] Twitter and domestic microblogs do not broadcast in parallel, but are more like a sealed lake that is always full of water (sealed-off Twitter) trickling into dried-up earth (domestic microblogs) to irrigate it. If you open a little trickle, there will be a furious flood, and it will soon provoke restriction, which will lead to the crack being blocked. Of course, if only very few people ‘trickle-irrigate’, the [dried-up] earth is certain to crack up, so it’s necessary for more people to use all sorts of ways to broadcast all kinds of truth onto domestic microblogs, and to use the ‘trickle-irrigation’ method to allow the truth to remain on domestic microblogs for longer. This way, we can finally make all sorts of lies spun by [the government] collapse in on themselves. […] In my opinion, it would be best if we could amass popularity of domestic microblogs, and if we can’t amass popularity, netizens can make use of the ‘micro-power’ of this trickle-irrigation, and continue to send out all kinds of information that will benefit the truthful broadcasting of information.

[…] One evening around early March, many netizens found that any news sent about Ai Weiwei [an activist best known for compiling an independent investigation into the Sichuan earthquake death toll] relating to the earthquake was being deleted from Sina’s microblog service. So that night, a large group of netizens set up tens and hundreds of microblogs focussing on Ai Weiwei, and proceeded to publish blocked information, throwing the Sina microblog staff into panic for a while. […] At the March 19 Fuzhou public security authorities’ ‘premature ejaculation’ over the unbelievable ‘three netizens case’ [three netizens who published articles and video about the fatal rape of a young girl by police officers were accused of ‘false accusations against innocent parties’, but the trial was postponed because of demonstrations at the courthouse], some Twitterers went to the scene to publish instant news, and still more continued to re-tweet the news, and incessantly forwarded that information onto domestic microblogs, so that those ‘within the wall’ could understand the truth of this matter more clearly, and let more people know the unbelievable shamelessness of the Fuzhou public security authorities. When many “carriers” sent this information onto domestic microblogs, much was deleted or screened, and some [user accounts] were even closed because of those [messages] – death in battle. But even if your domestic microblog is lost in battle, you can apply for a new one, and continue to carry out a continual and tireless work of “freighting” from sealed-off Twitter to domestic microblogs. In my opinion, Twitter is a place for the broadcasting and storage of truth, and domestic microblogs are there to spread that truth, and to die in battle. The more times your blog account is lost, the greater your effort to spread the truth. […]

He concludes with a positive outlook on the future of interaction between Twitter and domestic microblog services, encouraging Chinese people to take advantage of the internet to transform society:

The internet is a big gift from God to the human race, especially to China, but it’s a shame that when confronted with this rich and multi-faceted gift, many people are at a loss as to what to do. Because Chinese people have never received such a good gift, it has made some people lose all curiosity for digging out the gift, [as well as] all exploratory spirit, and all creativity. That is to say, after being enslaved for a long time, they have even lost all desire, confidence, toughness and strength to cast off their rotten shackles. This is the Chinese people’s grief. When facing the constant progression of the internet, some people’s eyes are seeing just as ignorantly and as powerlessly as before. There’s no harm in cautiously believing that the transformative effect that the internet has brought to Chinese society has only just begun, and the curtain has only just opened on the interaction between Twitter and domestic blogs. The best scene is yet to come.

Dear New York Times: WTF?

I have criticized the New York Times before, but generally, I find their writing on China to be pretty balanced, especially once you read beyond the headlines. So it was particular dismay that I read this piece, which starts poorly in the headline department and then goes south from there.

“Stance by China to Limit Google Is Risk by Beijing.” That’s the headline, and it would make sense if Beijing’s stance had somehow changed, but it hasn’t. As always, Beijing requires domestic search engines to provide filtered search results. Google and other search engines have been doing this in China for years. Google’s pullout is in no way a reflection of any kind of change in Chinese government policy, but that headline sure implies it is, and a “risky” one at that.

But, that’s just the headline, and as we’ve established, headlines are written to grab attention, not necessarily to indiciate the true content of the story (perhaps that’s what happened to Wired, too?). So is the content of Michael Wines’s piece any better? Sadly, it is not.

Now China has tightened its grip on the much more variegated world of online information, effectively forcing Google Inc., the world’s premier information provider, to choose between submitting to Chinese censorship and leaving the world’s largest community of Internet users to its rivals. It chose to leave.

If by “now”, he means “four years ago” then this paragraph would be sort of accurate. I say “sort of accurate” because it implies that this was something the Chinese government selectively forced on Google. It was not. All companies operating within any country must obey that country’s laws; filtering search results was something Google agreed to do when they first entered.

Chinese police shut down Google!

After some quotes from experts, including Bill Bishop of Digicha and Sinocism, Wines continues:

The conclusion of Google’s four-year Internet experiment in China — an effort to transplant Western free-speech norms here — was anything but smooth. On Monday, it effectively shut down the search engine it hosted inside China, after declaring in January that it would stop cooperating with Chinese censors.

Well at least now we’re admitting that Google entered China four years ago rather than yesterday. But was Google really conducting an “internet experiment” that was “attempting to transplant Western free-speech norms”? Lets see — they agreed to filter their own search results. That doesn’t seem very free-speech friendly. Then they kept doing that, with no change, for four years. Then, after being hacked, they yelled “Enough!” and pulled out entirely, having changed absolutely nothing about what Chinese people can access on the internet. Forgive me if I fail to see how that counts as an attempt to transplant “Western free-speech norms”. Perhaps someone could explain?

Then, Wines moves to broader generalizations about the nature of internet access in China:

But China also does not acknowledge to its own people that it censors the Internet to exclude a wide range of political and social topics that its leaders believe could lead to instability. It does not release information on the number of censors it employs or the technology it uses for the world’s most sophisticated Internet firewall. Its 350 million Internet users, many with fast broadband connections, are assured they have the same effectively limitless access to information and communications that the rest of the world enjoys.

Certainly, China doesn’t run PSAs informing the populace that the internet is censored for political content, but this paragraph is still pretty damn misleading. There is no attempt to hide the censorship of anything deemed “inharmonious”, and every netizen in China knows that means political and social content. Chinese people are not idiots, there are very few that really believe they “have the same effectively limitless access to information and communications that the rest of the world enjoys” (because the rest of the world doesn’t censor anything, of course). The Chinese have been willing to accept internet censorship not because they don’t know it exists but because, by and large, they buy into the argument that total free speech is damaging to social stability. That is the argument that the Chinese government has always advanced and continues to advancenot that censorship isn’t happening at all.

The rest of the article devolves into an even more ridiculous assertion: that Google is somehow innately better at innovating than domestic companies, and thus, the internet market will stagnate as domestic companies sit around copying each other’s old technologies rather than moving forward. Google does have a history of innovation, of course, but are Chinese companies really fundamentally incapable of this? I reject that notion as stupid — and probably also a bit racist — but I suppose we’ll see for sure in the long run.

The real tragedy is that Mr. Wines clearly spoke to some smart people. Xiao Qiang, the editor of the invaluable China Digital Times is also quoted in the piece, as are several presumably knowledgeable professors (and the aforementioned Bishop), but I find it hard to believe any of them would agree with how the final draft came out. Shame on you, New York Times, and shame on Michael Wines.

(As a sidenote, if you want to know what I think about Google pulling out of China, you can read this, or this — smarter men who’ve said it better than I. If you want the short version: it’s a selfish move that does nothing whatsoever to help Chinese people or the spread of freedom of speech.)

Before you argue in the comments that mistakes like the ones pointed out in this post are irrelevant, or say “Yeah, well the Chinese media is way worse, so what?”, please read this post.

The Trials of Being a Chinese Reporter

As if being a reporter in China weren’t hard enough already, the government is planning to enforce more stringent requirements to ensure that journalists “learn socialist and Marxist theories of journalism and media ethics.” But even when you do become a reporter, the path is not an easy one. Getting comments or even information at all for stories can be difficult, as evidenced by this recording of a Hong Kong reporter trying to confirm Google’s retreat from China with Chinese government officials.

The recording comes with a hat tip to the Twitter of Jeremy Goldkorn (of Danwei). The recording can also be streamed here. What follows is a rough translation of the phone conversation.

Translation

[Note: for obvious reasons, translating spoken speech is harder than translating something written. This is my first time attempting this sort of translation, and while I believe it reflects quite accurately the conversation as it was recorded, I have left a few small parts out and can’t be sure I haven’t made some mistakes.]
Reporter: May I ask, is this the State Council news bureau?
S.C. Worker 1: Yes.
Reporter: Oh, it’s like this, I’d like to ask whether Google is leaving the Chinese market or not.
S.C. Worker 1: Oh, this… […] we still don’t have that…we’re still not very clear on it.
Reporter: Why?
S.C. Worker 1: So you’ll have to ask another department, this office hasn’t received any news.
Reporter: You haven’t recieved any news. But isn’t this the State Council news bureau?
S.C. Worker 1: Yes. But we have many offices.
Reporter: Oh. Then what office should I ask? What office is this?
S.C. Worker 1: This is the news office.
Reporter: The news office, yes?
S.C. Worker 1: Yes.
Reporter: And at the news office you haven’t heard anything relating to [this piece of news]?
S.C. Worker 1: Uh, this, perhaps it is not our office that is responsible for this [piece of news].
Reporter: In that case, what office is responsible for it?
S.C. Worker 1: Uh [long pause] it’s…the propaganda office.
Reporter: Oh, the propaganda office?
S.C. Worker 1: Yes, maybe it’s the propaganda office.
Reporter: But have you heard the news that Google is going to leave China?
S.C. Worker 1: I saw it on the internet, but this office isn’t responsible for it.
[…]
Reporter: OK, so can you tell me the phone number for the propaganda office?
S.C. Worker 1: You could send a memo over and I could pass it along to them, how’s that?
Reporter: Oh, that might not be convenient, could you just directly tell me the propaganda office’s number?
S.C. Worker 1: Uh…I don’t have it now, wait a minute, I will ask [pause] OK, call 65226165 and ask.
Reporter: 65226165, and what office is that?
S.C. Worker 1: It’s an office responsible for dealing with reporters
Reporter: Oh, OK. Thank you.
S.C. Worker 1: Bye bye.

[Reporter calls that number]

Reporter: Is this the State Council news bureau office responsible for dealing with questions from reporters?
S.C. Worker 2: Yes, who is this?
Reporter: It’s like this, we saw that Google is going to leave the Mainland and wanted to ask about this news.
S.C. Worker 2: That…is it convenient if…which media outlet are you from?
Reporter: I’m a reporter with Radio Free Asia.
S.C. Worker 2: Oh, why don’t you send a fax, OK, send it to 65226115.
Reporter: 65226115?
S.C. Worker 2: Yes. Write your question on the fax, OK?
Reporter: Is this news real or not?
S.C. Worker 2: Uh, because I’m just the person who answers the phones, personally, I don’t have any way of responding to your question. We prefer to receive faxes.
Reporter: So do you have any information at all [about the news Google is leaving China]?
S.C. Worker 2: If you want to ask me this in detail, because I only answer the phones, I personally…you probably can understand, there are different jobs within an office. How about this, going by the normal system, you should send a fax to the number I just told you
Reporter: And then?
S.C. Worker 2: And write your question and your name and how to get in touch with you on the fax. Then on this end we will deal with it according to the system. We will get in touch with you.

Thoughts

Obviously, this kind of thing happens to reporters everywhere from time to time, but the fact that the government department responsible for dealing with reporters and news couldn’t answer a simple question is sort of concerning even when one doesn’t take into account their rather antiquated “system” of responding to questions (I would love to hear if this reporter ever heard back from them). Why, for that matter, is the person who answers the phones at the office for responding to requests from reporters not capable of answering a simple “is this true or not” question?