Esther Castillo, the researcher from Macau who studies in the United States as the political discourse interacts with people’s social life and shapes social movements in Macau, considers that “the 2014 demonstrations did change the political discourse in Macau.”
In fact, what happened then to a great extent was due to the mobilisation capacity that the Internet today exerts in the MSAR.
In this context two pages stand out: Macau Concealers and All About Macau Media.
“They are the first batch of online alternative media coming up in Macau, bringing multiple innovative reforms in media practice,” according to Chang Su, the author of The Roles of Online Alternative Media in Facilitating Civil Society Development in Macau: The Case Study of Macau Concealers and All About Macau Media, published last year.
“In addition, they enjoy close attention, a high rate of and active interaction with Internet users. Many of their reports force the government to respond. They are of great influence on Macau society,” she adds.
Professor Chang Su also understands that “the success of the civil rights movement was a victory not only for the people of Macau but for Macau’s Internet alternative media.”
The researcher explains this “success” with this argument: “These media transcended the public opinion barrier set up by the mainstream media . . . [offering] . . . a relatively free communication space to disseminate non-mainstream information . . . [and] . . . express anti-establishment opinions and mobilise collective actions.”
It makes sense to bring together Macau Concealers and All About Macau Media in the same context, but as Chang Su herself recognises “the two outlets have distinct characteristics.”
The same is reaffirmed to Macau Business by journalist and researcher José Carlos Matias: while Macau Concealers is an online media outlet affiliated with the New Macau Association and “reflects the group’s political agenda and sarcasm” he prefers to highlight “the role played by All About Macau as a relatively more independent media outlet, with a strong online outreach.”
Mr. Matias also understands that “these platforms are way more critical of the local authorities and more challenging than the traditional newspapers, which are mostly seen as editorially aligned with the pro-establishment camp. However, it would be inaccurate to conclude that there not many critical voices in those newspapers.”
In recent years the online media have gained recognition and visibility that would have been unthinkable ten years ago. Macau Concealers began in 2005 but only in this decade has become a powerful medium. All About Macau Media has roots prior to 2010, but it is also in this decade that it has gained the status attributed to it today.
“Many of their [Macau Concealers and All About Macau Media] reports force the government to respond. They are of great influence on Macau society” – Chang Su
This is also due to the fact that young people are very much in favour of the Internet and that they find alternative forms of expression that are not only informative. “Cyberspace has provided new spaces for the Macau people not only to resist the official move to legitimise Chinese identity but also to adopt a resistance identity by reclaiming their ‘Macanese’ identity, thus promoting the growing marginalisation or even rejection of ‘loving the country’ and the increased emphasis on ‘loving Macau’,” wrote Zhongxuan Lin of the School of Communication and Design, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, in Re-imagined Communities in Macau in Cyberspace: resist, reclaim and restructure.
As can be seen, there is a broad consensus among researchers of all origins about the enormous importance of the Internet in Macau. Professor Lisa Xiaopin of the University of Macau tells our magazine that “nowadays, the Internet and social media are playing a more and more important role in the global marketplace. I believe the ecology of the media market in Macau will be changed / has been changing in the coming years.”
Esther Castillo understands that “social networking websites such as Facebook and instant messaging apps such as WeChat are important platforms via which Macau citizens can express their dissent and complaints about political and everyday issues” and that “social networking sites/apps will continue to be a privileged stage for political expression.”
In the conclusions of the study, Chang Su states that “whether being spoof and news live from Macau Concealers, or in-depth reports of All About Macau Media, these alternative journalistic practices are all different from the traditional news production of the mainstream media in Macau. At the same time, they “challenge the hegemonic narration manipulated by Macau’s mainstream media and criticise its performing self-censorship.”
These two projects, however, and others that exist on the Internet live with numerous limitations, mainly due to the lack of funds or manpower. Chang Su tells Macau Business that although “the lack of funds and manpower is not good for the development of these two alternative media, it’s precisely the characteristics of the alternative media that is different from mainstream media.”
Will the paper journals finish sooner?
The Government’s option of granting subsidies to all Chinese and Portuguese-language newspapers is having a perverse effect: these newspapers put their editions online, little concerned about the revenues that result from sales.
Everywhere we talk about the end of paper newspapers, but this movement may be faster in Macau.
Subscriptions are almost over and the kiosks, which were part of the urban landscape of Macau, have been closing.
A study by the University of Macau found that between 2002 and 2012 readers of print newspapers had fallen from 60 per cent to 10 per cent.