CPJ observes censorship on floods

26 10 2011

PPT is a big supporter of the Committee to Protect Journalists and we instinctively reject censorship. Hence we are reluctant to criticize the CPJ’s latest statement on Thailand, where it states:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by reports that Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government has tried to censor the citizen-journalist website Thaiflood, which has provided crucial news and information about massive flooding….

However, we feel that the statement of  “concern” about “reports” suggests less than appropriate fact-checking. Yes, there are such reports, but these are hotly disputed by others.

The CPJ’s report includes just three “reports” in its account, and each is to the Bangkok Post (another to the Wall Street Journal is irrelevant to the CPJ claims). That hardly amounts to a cascade of reports.

Of course, there are other reports such as this in The Nation, but they all have the same source. This is Thaiflood’s Poramate Minsiri, who is said in The Nation to head this “large civic network.” For a start, this is a “network” of unknown size put together specifically for this event. It is essentially a website and Twitter account. On that basis alone, its expertise on floods is to be questioned and there are several other groups at work on social media.

Thaiflood has also been portrayed as an anti-red shirt group. For example, in The Nation report Poramote is cited as saying that:

ThaiFlood was being discriminated against when it came to distributing supplies. He said that his group of volunteers did their best to hand out flood relief items to victims, they had to queue up for a long time, while the red-shirt groups were able to get their supplies much faster.

That sounds more like political scrapping, not censorship.

In addition, in that report, Poramate says “his group had pulled out because FROC was refusing to tell the truth about the situation.” That claim may or may not be true, but it was only a few days ago that the media was baying for blood because ministers were being “alarmist.” Since then, it has been the media and especially the social media that has been alarmist. It seems that if Poramate is claiming censorship, it is by a government that is trying to reclaim credibility after being beaten from pillar to post for its allegedly poor communications. This seems like a Catch-22.

Just a day ago in the Bangkok Post, Poramate was described as a “website operator,” and Thaiflood was said to have “no real office, no employees of note.” Poramate is said to have claimed “that Froc was trying to assimilate Thaiflood.” In fact, initially Thaiflood’s complaint  was “the government limited the group’s access to vital information.” That’s the claim of “not telling the truth.” At the same time, Thaiflood had “proposed a group representative to help the government map out its flood response operation, but Froc rejected the offer.”

That allegation of what might be considered sour grapes morphed into a claim of censorship when the government said it did want to control the release of flood information (for which it has been criticized for its failure to do so in previous days. Yep, full circle.

As a footnote, it is ironic that Poramate is claiming censorship when it was he who once advised the military-backed royalist government in 2007 on how to block YouTube postings considered “offensive” to the monarchy.

Back to the CPJ and Shawn Crispin, its senior Southeast Asia representative, a journalist who we argued was highly politicized in his recent reporting on the floods.

Crispin seems just a tad too politically biased to be making this claim. Maybe Sombat Boonngamanong had it right when he stated that his Mirror Foundation would “continue helping people regardless of their political affiliation, adding that the blame game should be set aside until the crisis has passed.”

But that doesn’t mean that the government shouldn’t be criticized for failures and for censorship. We’re just not convinced that the CPJ has done its due diligence on this one.

If readers think we’ve got this terribly wrong, let us know by email.



One response

26 10 2011
The politics behind Thailand's floods - Page 5 - TeakDoor.com - The Thailand Forum

[…] response to this from TPP….. CPJ observes censorship on floods CPJ observes censorship on floods October 26, 2011 by thaipoliticalprisoners PPT is a big […]

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