South China Morning Post editor Thomas Abraham has resigned and joint deputy editor Robin Bowman has left amid mounting speculation that the Hong Kong-based newspaper is planning a push into China.
Currently in charge is Thaddeus Beczak, deputy chairman and now publisher of SCMP, with Abraham acting as a consultant until his notice period runs out. Beczak will be responsible for the strategic direction of the paper. He flatly denied to staff that the paper would be majoring on news about China in the main section while there would be a second section with Hong Kong and lifestyle news.
But sources say Abraham, who is leaving for personal reasons, was told of its new direction as a fait accompli.
Bowman had made it known that he disagreed with the plans. He had been at the paper for six years, as assistant editor, executive editor, managing editor and, for the past year, as deputy. He joined the Post from The Sun, where he was news editor.
Beczak told staff: "My appointment is not only about personnel and editorial organisation. It is also intended to better define such issues as the Post’s voice, identity, and its role as the premier English-language publication covering China and Hong Kong.
"In the past, the Post has all too often been viewed as a litmus test of Hong Kong’s autonomous status under the Basic Law, and of press freedom in Hong Kong.
"When we published articles construed as critical of Beijing, some viewed us as advancing the concepts behind the Basic Law and press freedom in Hong Kong. When our coverage was seen as supporting China, others questioned the Post’s motives.
"That was then; this is now. For those seeking clarity, here is our position. In China, we are witnessing a transformation that will fundamentally reshape the lives of more than a billion people, as well as the global economy, international politics and the emerging global society of the 21st century. At the Post, we support China’s emergence in many areas, including the arts, education, business and sports. We also support its quest for security, prosperity and equity for all its citizens, including those of Hong Kong.
"As journalists, we have been given a wonderful vantage point to cover the world’s most exciting story for years to come. At the same time, we want to further our own ability to ask questions and report accurately, independently and fairly. Our goal is to produce a newspaper that will compete with the best in the world, whether it is based in London, New York, or Tokyo. The South China Morning Post is not about censorship, indecisiveness, or second-guessing."
Colin Kerr, currently managing editor of the Post, becomes editorial director while Anthony Lawrance rejoins the paper as managing editor.
By Jean Morgan