Media freedom for the government

4 05 2009

Update: PPT was too lenient on Minister Sathit in the article below. The Nation (4 May 2009: “Minister Satit questions freedom of expression”) reports that he was outspoken in questioning the need for media freedom. Sounding like another Thai opponent of media freedom or even Lee Kuan Yew, Sathit was reported to have questioned the idea of “freedom of expression, which he referred to as a cliched claim by the media, saying that it had become the cause of social conflict.”

Further, Sathit is reported to have said that “freedom of expression was ‘overstepping the limits, so thought had to be given to how it should be confined.”

One wonders why he would attend a meeting meant to celebrate media freedom and say such illiberal things? PPT believes the answer is that this government continues to want to limit political freedoms and this is a further warning.

The Bangkok Post (4 May 2009: “Cheerleading role improper”) has a report on Prime Minister’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey speaking at a seminar to mark World Press Freedom Day.

The Democrat Party minister said that “the time had come for the mainstream media to strictly maintain neutrality. They should not behave like cheerleaders at sporting events when reporting on political conflicts. The media should report the truth, while professional media bodies should keep reviewing their own role…”.

That would all be good and right, especially when the role of the media has been criticized in recent days for abandoning such principles.

Then the minister adds: “Let’s see how they are going to regulate themselves and the ones that have been used as political groups’ instruments.” Presumably he means the UDD media that the government closed down and restricted. The government certainly hasn’t acted against pro-government media.

The minister then said that “the government right now was more concerned about the impact of short message services (SMS) via mobile phones as they can also be misused to spread disinformation.” So Sathit means that news that is pro-government should be free, but not anti-government media?

It seems that censorship of government-defined “disinformation” is appropriate under the Democrat Party-led administration of Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Puangthong Phawakkaraphan, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, pointed out that “red shirt supporters felt that coverage by the mainstream media of the Songkran rioting was biased.” This led to frustration (and SMS messaging).



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4 05 2009
New: RWB on Thailand’s media « Political Prisoners in Thailand

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