Category Archives: Media

Fair Media Assessment on Trump, Finally!

After persistent media witch-hunting, there is some respite for the American President, Mr Donald Trump, with a CNN report declaring he passed his first test on the global stage.

To me, the highlight of Mr Trump’s recent visits was his emphatic message that both Israel and Palestine must strike a compromise for peace and progress.

Calling terrorists “evil losers” and some plain-speaking with NATO were characteristic of Mr Trump, consistent with his earlier stand on the issues.

But whether his first international visit as President was a reassertion of American leadership is debatable. He is presiding over a fading superpower, handing the status out on a platter to China amid challenges within the U.S. over his  suspect equations with Russia.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Will the Witch-hunt of Assange End Now?

But as the US is still after him, Assange may be stuck in the Ecuador embassy in London. It is going to be interesting to watch how the UK will react to this development.

Will Assange take the risk of stepping out of the embassy and face arrest and deportation to the US? It is time the witch-hunt is ended.

Will that then give hope to Edward Snowden.?

G Joslin Vethakumar 


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No Courage to Face the Media?

US President Donald Trump had indeed got it right last night with some of his comments on the American media.

Beyond his remarks, taking sides defeats what the media ought to stand for – reporting without prejudice and maintaining a sense of credible balance in coverage.

It is not their job to be liberal, they must be equitable without being too opinionated. Otherwise, they will not be able to differentiate themselves from bloggers or marketing outfits with an agenda.

Trump may have been right with his criticism but by skipping the White House Correspondents’ dinner last night, he simply betrayed his lack of courage to face them.

G Joslin Vethakumar 


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Why Does a 2015 Speech by Dr Rajan Appear as a 2016 Year-End Piece?

It is Still Relevant – “Strong Government May Not Move in the Right Direction”

The only readable pieces in The Straits Times are those written by external subject matter experts, as I had been saying in a few of my recent posts.

Often they use syndicated pieces, as the one in its edition today by Dr Raghuram Rajan, former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India and currently Professor of Finance at the hallowed University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Path to Ruin

Titled “Democracy, Inclusion and Prosperity”, the thought-provoking piece presents an interesting argument on why “strong governments may not move in the right direction.” As an example, he points out that Hitler, with a strong Government, provided Germany with extremely effective administration.

But, as Dr Rajan goes on to say, “Hitler took Germany efficiently and determinedly on a path to ruin, overriding the rule of law and dispensing with elections.”


Dr Rajan’s piece in The Straits Times today

It is a historical fact that strengthens his argument though I would prefer logical reasoning based on current dynamics for any position one takes. But when the present in some pockets moves exactly along the lines of a given situation, then it does become appropriate.

Boring Headline for a Compelling Piece

The piece is relevant for both Singapore and India where the governments are strong but may not necessarily be moving in the right direction. 

True to its style, The Straits Times used a boring headline. What I will have given it will be: “A Govt with Hitler-like Administration May Not Move in the Right Direction.” Even if it is a long one it will have drawn readers to it.

That said, what I wanted to bring up in this post is the fact that Dr Rajan’s piece, carried by The Straits Times and some Indian newspapers, is extracted from a speech he made in February 2015 (two months shy of two years) at an Ideas Festival in Goa.

He was the RBI Governor when he made the speech, a very bold one as it could have easily been taken as an attack on the Narendra Modi Government.

The thoughts articulated in the piece may be two years old but very relevant today and worthy of a close read. 

I am nonetheless amused as to why the syndicate (Project Syndicate) came up with it as a year-end piece when the speech was not made in 2016. Perhaps I am ignorant of something!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Forget History, it is the Present and Readiness for the Future that Count

Drumming up the past serves no meaningful purpose. Just like technologies that have gone obsolete.

A few of my earlier posts touched on how journalism is both losing sting and relevance, particularly in Asia.

Do Newspapers Need In-house Journalists?

New Disruptive Political Order has Emerged

The media are no longer in a position to influence trends. From Brexit to Donald Trump’s spectacular ascension, nothing worked according to the designs of the media or to that of fake liberals.


The losers may find it easy to place the entire blame on the West, raking up history and doing all they can to pitch what may be politically correct but realistically just bunkum.

The reality is they have failed and will continue to fail amid an environment where those who matter are not prepared to sniff hot air any longer. The sooner they realise this the better.

The Lucent Example

Businesses have become history only because they lacked the ability to measure up to market transitions. Lucent Technologies is a classic example. It had several Nobel Laureates working for it and despite all of its focus on R&D it failed to plan ahead for the unfolding technology evolutions (the IP revolution, for instance) and, not surprisingly, lost out to the likes of Cisco Systems.

Surviving in some form, through mergers and acquisitions, is not the same as being an independent market leader.


A Lack of Vision

Transformative strategies are key for survival. Market leadership is fine as long as the solutions being pitched are evolving with the times, with a strong roadmap.

If a company is steadily losing market share it only suggests it is steeped in history, staying stuck in a legacy environment and being late to address new-generation platform requirements. In essence, it points to a lack of vision.

Late Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai had this habit of living in the past. For instance, when asked about his plans to address the country’s poverty his supercilious response was “we were the richest once.”

I don’t think the world has the generosity to accept excuses and an unwillingness to learn from failures.


Don’t Glorify, Perpetuate Failures

It is the present and the future that are pertinent, the past will just have to be cast aside. Relying on history to drive the future is tantamount to perpetuating and glorifying failures. Past glory is meaningless if the present does not offer even a faint semblance to it.

Journalists subscribing to their own historical madness are fossilised specimen who ignore today’s realities that cannot be turned back.History is akin to yesterday’s technologies that have already gone obsolete. Trying to restore them on the pretext that they worked well then will only be seen as laughable folly.


New Leaders, Old Information

In today’s digital world we have new leaders – not the ones who invented the typewriter and failed to transition to the world of computers. Even new technologies have a short lifespan. The pager was hot for a few years but disappeared when mobile phones became pervasive. It is only a matter of time before even the print media go completely digital.

Historical perspectives may lend credibility to a thought piece, but allowing that to form the basis for arguments, for faulting or justifying the present, when discussing current affairs is too simplistic a position.

The new generation hardly has the patience to process old, irrelevant information. What is bygone must remain so. What works today and what will work tomorrow are what that ought to count – until change signals the next big step. That may be sooner than we imagine.

What is only of academic interest cannot be the basis for defining the present and the future. Let history be history!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Do newspapers need in-house Journalists?

It was only yesterday I blogged about the emerging new political order that is taking on globalisation.

Within the post was my inference that a lack of independent analytical depth among its correspondents was making The Straits Times rely on external subject matter experts for thought leadership pieces.

Even when they do, it is riddled with opinions of experts.

As if to reaffirm my stance, the newspaper carried a news analysis today on why the U.S. and Japan need each other. Forget the stereotype inherent in it, the piece is a summary of what experts think about the subject.

That brings up the question: “Do newspapers and magazines need in-house Journalists?”

– G Joslin Vethakumar

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2016: India’s Economy Starts with a Bang but Ends in a Whimper

Demonetisation Mess Set to Spill Over to 2017

India’s economy was booming when 2016 unfolded, but what started with a bang is ending in a whimper, thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ill-conceived and poorly executed ban on big notes that has so far left around 120 people dead and millions jobless.

This Bloomberg report, carried by Singapore’s Business Times today, says “India started 2016 as the world’s fastest-growing major economy, but at its end the nation faces a significant slowdown and the delay of what’s been hailed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s greatest reform — the creation of an integrated marketplace.”

GST is Brainchild of Dr Manmohan Singh Government

There is a minor inaccuracy here – the “greatest reform” it raises is not actually that of Modi’s, he was merely set to usher in the GST era, with the framework for it put in place by the Manmohan Singh government.


But it is right in pointing out that “Demonetisation has sucked momentum from the movement to roll out India’s goods and services tax from April 1. Hailed as one of biggest reforms in generations, the GST will replace a myriad of consumption and sales levies imposed by various states and is expected to boost competitiveness and investment.”


G Joslin Vethakumar

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The Straits Times on Modi Campaign Trail??

Report Hails Lee Kuan Yew, Derides Nehru and Gandhi

Is it Planning an Indian Edition?

I am sure The Straits Times is not stupid enough to make a bold foray into India at a time when traditional media are rapidly losing their relevance and influence.

As The Times of India is already fulfilling its role as a pro-establishment rag, The Straits Times will be left behind if it ventures forth nurturing such a folly.

It had in the recent past launched its Myanmar and Brunei editions. It publishes a few of its Singapore magazines overseas. If my memory serves me right, the Singapore Press Holdings group, publishers of The Straits Times, had started a business daily in Thailand as well.

Perhaps its plan is to lift the image of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Singapore with pieces that can boost the profile of the racist leader. He is after all adept at marketing himself.

Flak at Home over Demonetisation

I have been seeing a steady stream of reports in The Straits Times going soft on Modi. Hence the suspicion if it is eyeing an Indian venture.

Modi has been drawing flak from the country’s English media and the world’s top economists for its ill-conceived demonetisation move which has seen people die standing in queues trying to withdraw their own money, not to collect handouts from the Government.

The 100 or more needless deaths have not happened in Singapore, so why will The Straits Times care about it?

Nehru “delighted in Western ideals”

Modi can draw some cheer from The Straits Times, which carried a report today hailing demonetisation –

Interestingly, the report appeared to scoff at India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi while subtly seeing merit in the leadership of Singapore’s founding PM Lee Kuan Yew who realised “startling economic success” fusing Western and local ideals. 

Indeed, Singapore owes its success to late Lee. Comparing him with Nehru and Gandhi, however, is out of place.

Subtle Dig at Modi but ST Misinterprets Chinese Media Report

The report also claimed the Chinese media had shown appreciation of Modi’s move. That only betrays a complete misreading of the report in China’s Global Times which was actually taking a subtle dig at demonetisation. A hint inherent in it was that China can learn from India’s mistakes.

It called it a bold and decisive step but was clear it cannot help tackle corruption. Importantly, the report argued what is key is reforming the system for which it urged India to look at China’s initiatives to curb corruption.

The drive against corruption launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping has so far resulted in the arrests of more than a million officials, it pointed out.

But then the writer’s intent was only to show selective mischief in feeding misinformation to readers not aware of ground realities.

It was amusing to find Nehru being described as someone who “delighted in Western ideals.” Nehru was born in affluence, leading an aristocratic life, but spent 14 years in jail during India’s freedom struggle.

A Cambridge-educated barrister he fought the British and often found himself jailed by the British during the freedom movement. As India’s first PM, he drew inspiration from Western thinkers with a leaning towards socialism.

Juvenile Writing

There is little doubt that The Straits Times will not entertain such juvenile, even colloquial, descriptions for Lee Kuan Yew or for Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. So, why such loose language for foreign leaders? Simply puerile writing that may be fit for the social media, not for a serious newspaper!

But then the mission of Modi and his Hindutva brigade is to paint the Nehru family as independent India’s biggest villains so the history books can be rewritten to proclaim the man who presided over the 2002 Gujarat mayhem as the country’s saviour.

Some Indians overseas behave like plants pursuing that vicious path, aided by newspapers such as The Straits Times with mediocre writing.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Rio Swimming Fracas: Immature Reaction from Chinese state-run Media!

Nasty Comments against Australia over “drug-cheat” Sun Yang

Prior to the men’s 400m freestyle final at the Rio Olympics on Saturday, defending champion Sun Yang of China had faced charges of sledging against Australian swimmer Mack Horton.

But Horton, making his Olympic debut, had the last laugh when he pipped Sun for the Gold. Referring to Sun’s antics, which is said to have included splashing at Horton during a training session, the Australian curtly dismissed it with the comment: “I don’t have time for drug cheats.”

He was not wrong, as Sun indeed had tested positive and is reported to have served a drugs suspension in secret.


Russian athletes have also been receiving boos from fans in Rio as they have been allowed to participate in the Games despite their drug violations.

But I am startled by the immature reaction of the Chinese state-run media. A report said: “Australia has always been a ‘second-class citizen’ in the West, and many people from Western Europe, especially the UK, feel condescension toward Australians.”

Australia an Offshore Prison

Calling Australia an offshore prison, the commentary went on to say: “In many serious essays written by Westerners, Australia is mentioned as a country at the fringes of civilisation,” it went on, referencing its “early history as Britain’s offshore prison”.
“This suggests that no one should be surprised at uncivilised acts emanating from the country,” it concluded.

If that is so, Mr China, why is Australia so full of people from your country? In fact, every Western country they despise is filled with people of Chinese origin.

Sun Yang has been caught in so many scandals that he has been even described as “the biggest jerk of the Rio Olympics.”

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Capitalism and Democratic Values Crumbling at the Altar of Lucre!

China will do anything to sell itself to the world. And cash crumbs will make the democratic, capitalist world lap up whatever ideological trash that is dispensed.

From the media to education, all sectors will crash down under if cash is dangled at them, sacrificing all ethical values they proudly proclaim. Their job is, after all, only to preach, not practice!

Vivid SydneyIt is happening in Australia and it will happen anywhere as capitalism, propelled by crass commercialism, will be inevitably drawn to the lure of lucre. It gains ground when cyclical economic swirls leave them in a financial mess.

A Splash of Red

Recent reports in the Australian media have been painting the nation red with China making a $10-billion marketing push Down Under. With the media globally being cash strapped the self-proclaimed guardians of democracy and justice will do anything for survival. What are values when they only push them out of business!

Flag_of_the_People's_Republic_of_China_svgThey have reaped significant PR breakthroughs with top Australian newspapers from the Fairfax group (The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review) falling for cash in exchange for distribution of China Watch, a monthly eight-page supplement from the China Daily.

Australia has been going the China way of late with a Chinese consortium coming close to buying 1% of land Down Under. The deal is yet to go through.

Confucius Classrooms in U.S. and Now Australia

When the newspapers take the China bait can Australia’s universities and schools fall behind? Hardly!

From donating a library to the University of Technology Sydney to the setting up of Confucius Classrooms in Australian schools, China has been injecting funds there to promote its strategic interests.

Confucius Classrooms are nothing new, they have already made deep inroads into the U.S. with funds from China to propagate the Chinese language and culture.

Red StarGoethe-Institut and Alliance Francaise

You cannot fault China for that, they are doing what is in their interests! This is something Germany, France and Spain have been doing as well through such institutions as the Goethe-Institut (Max Mueller Bhavan in India) and the Alliance Francaise.

They are present worldwide, including in Singapore.

Pro-Establishment Media

In India, the situation is a little different. The media there plays the pro-establishment card to keep the government in good humour and attract advertising revenues (and possibly more). It becomes obvious when you watch, for instance, Times Now, or read The Times of India.

Even NDTV that has been trying to put on a semblance of balance has of late started airing programmes with a blatant pro-BJP pitch.

I am so glad I gave up journalism two decades ago!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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