Media, agents and reporting

20 02 2021

A couple of days ago, PPT posted regarding protest and violence. We were concerned that the single-minded, dare-we-say, middle-class, insistence on non-violence left protesters open to being picked off by the regime. And it has been doing that, seeking to repress. At the same time, we wondered why the state’s violence and its long history of murderous repression is so easily forgotten or dismissed in demanding that protesters behave as angels.

After reading a couple of reports in Khaosod, we are wondering if this kind of reporting-cum-normative demands hasn’t itself been manipulated by the state.

In that earlier post we linked to a video of military/police-looking men in plainclothes who infiltrated the protesters. Khaosod has a story on this which deserves very careful attention. Despite photographic and video evidence, the “police and the defense ministry maintain that they have no knowledge of the men in civilian clothes who were seen assisting security forces during a recent crackdown on demonstrators.” It seems that “assisting” can range from spying, informing, arresting and acting as agents provocateur.

Clipped from Khaosod

Khaosod saw “about 40 men wearing military-styled buzz cuts were deployed alongside the riot police, senior officials have yet to acknowledge who those men were, and what they were doing at the protest.” If the videos are added in, it looks like a larger group than that. The report states that the authorities initially denied their existence. Defense Ministry spokesman Maj Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich flatly denied the military had anything to do with them.

Of course, this has been going on for some time – the regime has been doing it for several months – and it is a tactic used in other countries. But the mainstream media takes little notice.

Then there’s the report that states:

Several journalists who were covering the Feb. 13 rally near the Grand Palace told Khaosod English that officers ordered them to stay behind the police line while they dispersed the protesters. They also said police intervention was the reason why only a few reporters were able to capture the outburst of violence on that night.

“I didn’t see what was happening in the frontline,” said Sirote Klampaiboon, who was covering the protest for Voice TV. “All I could see was there were clouds of smoke behind the police and I heard several bangs. I was only let go when the police managed to take control of the situation.”

A photo widely shared on social media also shows members of the press being confined between rows of riot police facing each other in front of the Supreme Court building – a police tactic known in Western countries as “kettling.”

Despite this, it is the protesters who are harangued by multiple reporters in several op-eds. Interesting “reporting.”





Neutering media

21 08 2017

The military dictatorship has generally been able to neuter the media. It got rid of most of the red shirt media soon after the 2014 military coup. It has then managed and manipulated the media. Initially, this did not require much effort as the mainstream media cheered the coup.

As the regime has gone on and on, some elements of the media have become just a little more critical of the junta’s nepotism, corruption, political repression and so on. The Dictator has shouted orders at journalists on those many occasions where he has felt the media should be doing more for his regime.

Most recently, as widely reported, the regime has been doing a little more to direct the media:

The government has ordered all television channels to promote the work of its ministers in an effort the head of its public relations division said was meant to take the focus off the prime minister.

Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the government spokesman who heads its Public Relations Department, said Thursday that he ordered each channel assigned to different ministers because he did not want the coverage to focus only on the prime minister.

“I didn’t force them. I let them choose freely but each channel must do differently,” he said after word got out and the effort was slammed as state-mandated propaganda. “Some channels even asked me to choose for them, but I didn’t because I know each channel has a different interest.”

It should be no surprise that most media enthusiastically signed up.

Dissent in the media is difficult under a military regime. One example of rare but consistent dissent by a journalist has seen Pravit Rojanaphruk who is now being punished by the military junta. He says:

It never occurred to me that what I write could be seditious.

Under military rule, criticizing the junta on social media can be construed as an act of sedition, however.

I learned this the hard way when police rang me up at the end of last month, informing me that I had been charged with sedition for a number of my Facebook postings.

That this is yet another fit-up. Each of Pravit’s posts was critical of the military junta. Yes, criticizing the junta constitutes sedition in totalitarian Thailand.

Pravit comments on the junta’s charges:

… no one really knows what constitutes sedition under military rule makes this a chilling effect and ensures greater self-censorship of anything critical of the junta in social media, however. The hazier the boundaries of what constitutes sedition, the more effective they become in instilling fear.

It may also be baffling that people who criticize the military junta, which usurped and continues to usurp power from the people, are the ones being charged with sedition. Control is more effective when fear is induced by logic-defying situations because one suspends disbelief of the illogical and absurd in Juntaland Thailand any longer. When right is wrong, wrong is right and might is right, rationality no longer gives guidance. We live not under the rule of law but under rule by arbitrary law of the junta. And logic is not necessary. Just obey. In fact, to obey without logically asking why or questioning the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of the military regime, makes control effective. Just obey. Don’t ask what’s wrong with the order imposed upon us.

On the future and on dissent, he declares:

It’s a privilege and an honor to defend freedom of expression on social media during the past three years. It is also an honor to be singled out among the select few Thais who have stood up and effectively disturbed the make-believe world of Juntaland Thailand.

We cannot defend freedom of expression if we are not willing to pay the price. The price is worth paying when one takes the long-term benefits of society to heart.





Mad at the foreign media

21 02 2016

The military junta, like its anti-democrat supporters, is convinced that the foreign media is in the pay of Thaksin Shinawatra. They reckon that any negative story about the junta or the monarchy is concocted for money.

The junta has sought all kinds of ways of changing the international narrative about the dysfunctional royals, nasty lese majeste arrests and sentences and the incompetence, corruption and general silliness of the repressive regime. Censorship, blocking, harassment, hiring consultants and more.

The latest trick is to attempt to control who can be accredited as a foreign journalist in Thailand. For details of this, a useful account, with links to the official document, is by the Committee to Protect Journalists. The CPJ states that it is “gravely concerned about new visa restrictions imposed on foreign reporters in Thailand that if fully implemented could restrict coverage of the country.”





The junta and foreign media

6 02 2016

The Bangkok Post reports that Thailand’s military junta is “[c]oncerned over its international image…”.

We find this curious. Either the junta is so lacking in international perspective and knowledge that it fails to understand that the media and its interests or it misunderstands its own profile and performance. It may well be both of these.

Clearly, if the junta thinks that “tighten[ing] its rules on foreign media working in Thailand, prompting the denial of work permits for some foreign journalists” is going to produce a better image among those journalists and the international media, then it has lost its collective marbles.Marbles

The report cites Jonathan Head, president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) and BBC correspondent. He says that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs makes the interview it conducts with those seeking a press card more difficult than it has been in the past. The report states that “many journalists who underwent an interview to obtain their work permit for the first time have described the process as often ‘unpleasant’ and ‘hostile’.”

The officials make it clear they want compliance, “asking the applicants for their opinions on the junta and the monarchy…”.

Media activist Subhatra Bhumiprabhas is also quoted, and compares “Thailand’s current press freedom situation to Myanmar’s at the height of its dictatorship.”

As we have said several times previously, Thailand is run by a bunch of knuckle draggers who have heads firmly lodged in a past era and are incapable of understanding the modern world. Their limited understanding of Thailand is shaped by their experience as loyalist slitherers who have spent more time on their bellies before bosses than developing knowledge and capacities that would allow them to run a modern country.

When they don’t get “loyalty” from Thais or foreigners, they become confused and disoriented. Their reaction is thus to repress or extinguish this “threat.” The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, displays this trait in all his dealings with the media.





Updated: Draft charter institutionalizes censorship

13 01 2016

Media censorship in Thailand under the military dictatorship is ubiquitous. Threats, cajoling, self-censorship and political alignment do the trick in most of the mainstream media.

The military brass and the royalist elite fear a freer press. They hate social media that they can’t control and direct.

To placate them going forward it seems the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee plans to institutionalize censorship of the media in its draft constitution.Censorship

As the Bangkok Post reports it, the “CDC now plans to give the state the ability to block news during political crises and other ‘unusual situations’, such as during the mass street protests that lead to 2014’s military coup.”

The CDC “agreed that the government should have such censorship powers following the imposition of an emergency decree or under martial law.” The CDC wants the media to be “cooperative” during such “unusual situations.”

Such institutionalizing of censorship adds to the already draconian capacity in law, including the computer crimes and lese majeste laws. Goodbye all thought of media freedom in Thailand.

Update: According to the Bangkok Post, quite remarkably, the CDC has quickly announced the dropping of it censorship plan. Apparently the drafting dolts have “decided that the executive or emergency decrees issued during such times generally have included provisions allowing for government media censorship. The military also has the same power under martial law…”. At the same time, there was a very strong negative reaction to this rightist plan. We are not sure we believe anything from these diddlers.





Blood, race

8 11 2012

Like almost everyone else, PPT watched political events in the United States. As the results came out, we were a little taken aback by the reports that started to appear in the mainstream media in Bangkok that began to see “the story” as being about Tammy Duckworth. This is kind of outside our normal posts, but we think some of this reporting has been appalling.

Patrick Winn at the Global Post notes this when he points to a Thai Rath headline: “สาวสายเลือดไทยชนะเลือกตั้ง เป็นส.ส.สหรัฐ” or Thai-blooded Thai girl becomes a congresswoman. As Winn notes, describing the former U.S. Army helicopter pilot who lost her legs in Iraq in 2004, when her Black Hawk was hit by an RPG is an insult in itself. Duckworth is the daughter of an American father, a marine, and a Thai mother.

Being proud of a woman with a Thai mother who becomes an elected member of the U.S. Congress is one thing. Doing that in racist and sexist terms is something else, betraying yet again that the mainstream media in Thailand remains mired in the debris of a failed education system and the 19th and 20th century creation of a propaganda state.

If readers are interested in some real news about Asian-Americans and the elections, try this.





Updated: Wishing away murder, election fixing and policy corruption

3 03 2011

A couple of days ago the Bangkok Post had an Alice in Wonderland editorial where reality is turned on its head and fantasy rules the day.

It began with the absurd notion that “Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is a consummate politician” and that he somehow “illustrated” this when he “unofficially but aggressively kicked off” the Democrat Party’s election campaign. PPT isn’t sure that consummate is the appropriate description for a man who owes his position to the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the military and the support of a troubled elite. And, we can think of several occasions in recent months when Abhisit has “unofficially kicked off” the Democrat Party’s campaign for a still unknown election date.

The Post repeats several times that a “clean, spirited election campaign and an honest vote” is expected or hoped for. It stresses the need for lawful campaigning and civilized and tolerant behavior and calls on the public to “reward good candidates…”.

All well and good, except that Abhisit, his coalition partners and the party’s powerful elite backers have already engaged in massive electoral manipulation. PPT won’t rehearse all the actions again, but we urge readers to look again at our posts on “fixing the election,” here, here and here. These actions, ranging from huge budget handouts to salary increases for officials and murder and repression, do not even include throwing out throwing out a constitution and writing another, so-called policy corruption, dispatching a couple of governments, a coup and manipulation of the courts.

Has the Bangkok Post no shame? Clearly not, for it then admonishes the media:

All types of media owe it to the country and the democratic process to cover the election campaign carefully – aggressively but honestly. The candidates’ speeches and statements must be checked for accuracy. But the public must trust the media to do this in an honest manner. Even the biased media – those well known to support this or that party – have a duty to stick to facts in reporting political movements.

We guess the Post doesn’t include itself in the “biased media” category but even this short editorial shows that it is remarkably partisan. Just look at this statement about the need for civilized campaigning: “In the past three years, the prime ministers and cabinet members have been intimidated or even assaulted when visiting so-called ‘opposition’ areas.”

Leaving aside the inability to acknowledge opposition areas without inverted commas, an unbiased and serious newspaper would mention that this behavior was also displayed by Democrat Party supporters in the south who repeatedly chased away Thai Rak Thai Party ministers. Mentioning this would have the Post standing on high ground. In fact, it displays its bias.

That bias is again clear when the Post states:

Most of all, the country truly hopes that politicians and their supporters will stick to the important national issues. There are plenty of important ones, including the economy, responses to international events, the constitution and more.

That might make some sense for the uninitiated, but as we know from yellow-shirted Senator Rosana Tositakul, this is no more than an attack on red shirts who do want to remember that their electoral choices have been summarily pushed aside by the elite that has placed the Democrat Party in power, together with all of the slanders, repression, imprisonments, “fixing,” double standards, and murders that have  accompanied that process.

Somehow Rosana and the Post think these are not important national issues and that the impunity of officials who murder protesters can continue to be ignored. The media and politicians have yet to seriously debate and investigate such crimes in a transparent manner. Perhaps the media should seriously investigate parliament and politicians instead of being mouthpieces for privileged minorities. Perhaps… oops, slipping into Wonderland ourselves… The media of the elite won’t do any of this.

Updated: A reader points out that we should note the promises Abhisit made and associated claims of vote-buying reported in the Bangkok Post.





Media gagged on Wikileaks

18 12 2010

We were going to post it, but New Mandala beat us to it. If you haven’t seen it yet, view NM’s post “Thai media gag on Wikileaks”. Funny but telling a sad story of censorship on the monarchy and much more.





Pravit on internet discussion of the monarchy

27 08 2010

There’s a long piece at Prachatai by Pravit Rojanaphruk that’s worth reading in its entirety. Here’s the first paragraph as an example of the interesting stuff he gets into. It isn’t all on the monarchy and lese majeste, but on the potential for democratic and civil space in online discussions:

Despite the continuing state crackdown on some political websites and on-line political posters, the internet has become the most open public space for political debate and discussion about the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. The mainstream print media, often regarded as more open and independent compared to the broadcast media, pale by comparison with the nascent internet news websites, blogs and online political-posting. Increasingly, the hegemonic control by the state and the mainstream media over the idealized portrayal and discourse of the monarchy is slipping and no longer tenable due to the differing portrayals and critical discussions online that simply by-pass traditional media outlets.





Updated: Censoring opponents

30 04 2010

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government now ranks head an shoulders above any previous civilian government in one area: media control and censorship. Every day new websites are close for allegedly being anti-government or anti monarchy.This is remarkable when it is considered that Abhisit regularly proclaims his government to be legitimate, in place through parliamentary means, and that it values democracy.

Almost all red shirt electronic and broadcast media have been closed or blocked. Just in the past couple of days, the English version of the UDD Thailand Facebook group has been shut down, as was a new page that was created to replace it. The Thai versions had earlier been shut down.

Yesterday PPT reported a new lese majeste arrest based on a Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Prachatai’s Facebook page was blocked on 28 April by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT). This follows the 8 April blocking of Prachatai’s web pages and the charges brought against Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Prachatai’s executive director. Prachatai is an independent news outlet but the Abhisit government considers it oppositional. It can still be accessed in Thailand but only via proxy servers and mirror sites.

According to Prachatai, two other websites were closed in the aftermath of the clash between security forces and Red Shirt protesters on 27 April. Chiranuch said that another news website, www.springnewstv.com,which provides news content to satellite TV channels, was also blocked after it ran a video clip of the 27 April violent confrontation between soldiers and policemen and red shirts near Don Muang.  www.vimeo.com was also shut down, apparently for running video footage of the same clash.

Global Voices has a summary of the government’s recent and sorry censorship trail.

Update: Freedom House has just released its 2009 report on press freedom in 2008 around the world. Read it for Thailand here. It lists Thailand as “partly free” and notes oppositional movements and “adverse” judicial rulings saw the media embroiled in political activism. It can only get worse for the 2009 and 2010 years.








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