Updated: Managing news?

18 08 2011

PPT admits to being confused about this report in the Bangkok Post, reproduced in part below:

Ruling party bribes’ email was ‘real’

Published: 18/08/2011 at 12:00 AM

The National Press Council of Thailand has concluded that an email message sent from a Pheu Thai Party spokesman that indicated the media was being managed by a political party was real.

However, it says it does not have the authority to seek further evidence to prove that any graft occurred.

A council subcommittee looking into the controversy released its findings yesterday, saying the message was probably sent from an email account belonging to Pheu Thai deputy spokesman Wim Roongwattanajinda.

Led by Dr Wichai Chokwiwat and Somkiat Tangkitvanich, the panel said it was convinced Mr Wim had written the email about money and benefits having been offered to seven journalists. They did not say how the panel had arrived at its conclusion.

We don’t have evidence that the journalists took bribes,” Dr Wichai said . “We don’t have clear evidence because we don’t have the legal power to investigate.”

Mr Wim did not appear before the panel.

The report said Pheu Thai probably had “managed” the media systematically, including running advertisements in certain newspapers, setting news agendas for those newspapers, and sending in party photos for publication….

Writer: Wassayos Ngamkham

At least the Post manages to have “real” in inverted commas in its account of the “outcome” of the “investigation”…. (see below) ….

For an account of the establishment of the “investigation,” see here. Note that Wichai is a former Chairman of the Rural Doctors Foundation, which has been actively associated with anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movements and Somkiat is vice-president of TDRI, a royalist bastion.

PPT can well imagine that certain parties did try to influence the media. After all, during the election campaign, the coverage of the Democrat Party by the Bangkok Post was largely uncritical and highly supportive. At the same time, this report appears to amount to little more than the long anti-Thaksin  National Press Council admitting that it has no evidence for the allegations made and which it decides to support despite that missing evidence. This report will soon shoot around the blogs (see here) as factual and will become part of the lore of the campaign to bring down the Puea Thai government.

PPT already sees a pattern emerging in the actions of the combined anti-Thaksin media, yellow-shirted political activists and, of course, the defeated and (we would have thought) humiliated Democrat Party. That pattern is very 2005-6 in its conception. We’ll have more on this in later posts.

Update: While considering political parties influencing the media, it is interesting to see how much the Bangkok Post has been reporting Abhisit Vejjajiva. Look at the quite silly article “explaining” how only Abhisit can save the Democrat Party a few days ago as just one example. Further, the Post has reactivated Korn Chatikavanij’s regular column. In this instance who’s influencing who?

Defamation, film censorship, freedom of speech and the monarchy

2 08 2009


Prachatai (1 August 2009: “Thailand: Report on defamation law”) which begins, “ARTICLE 19 and the National Press Council of Thailand (NPCT) have jointly launched a Report, the Impact of Defamation Law on Freedom of Expression in Thailand. The Report outlines the nature of defamation law in Thailand, as well as the chilling effect it has on freedom of expression.”

The report was released on 30 July.

The report shows the ways in which defamation laws operate and the negative impact for the “free flow of information and ideas.” It also provides examples of defamation cases which have inhibited “political speech.” And the report also outlines “other restrictions on freedom of expression in Thailand, including the offence of lèse majesté, which has been used with increasing frequency in recent years to limit open debate about public authorities.”

Find the report here.

Film censorship

Prachatai (2 August 2009: “Thai film archivist: new rating for films confusing, and still includes banning”) has a story on the Cabinet approval of a ministerial regulation on the rating and censorship of films. PPT posted on this back in February, here. The regulation will come into force later this month.

According to Prachatai, “The approved ministerial regulation under the 2008 Films and Videos Act classifies movies into seven categories: 1) educational movies which the public should be encouraged to see; 2) movies appropriate for the general public; 3) movies appropriate for audiences aged 13 and older; 4) movies appropriate for audiences aged 15 and older; 5) movies appropriate for audiences aged 18 and older; 6) movies prohibited for audiences aged below 20; and 7) movies which are banned.”

The inclusion of a banned category is cause for concern: “Chalida Uabamrungjit, the Director of the Thai Film Foundation, said that to include banning in the rating system was like reintroducing Article 4 of the 1930 Films Act which was ambiguous in terms of standards.”

In the banned category, as well as scenes including sexual intercourse or the showing of sexual organs, there is the expected political categories.

On top of the political list is this: any film that “affects the Monarchy or the democratic form of government with the King as Head of State.” Note that this goes beyond the usual lese majeste category, which would normally be handled under the notorious and draconian Article 112 of the Criminal Code.

The inclusion of a vague statement about the “democratic form of government with the King as Head of State” is open to all kinds of political manipulation. So too is the category of a film that “causes disunity among the people.” Such a category gives the authorities a very wide scope to politically censor.

In a similar manner, the inclusion of films that might affect “inter-state relationships” is vague and open to political manipulation.

She also saw a problem of movie classification by age of audience, which would be a headache for those who decide the ratings.

Chalida comments that although the “Film Censorship Board is moved from the National Police Office to the Ministry of Culture, the composition of the board is barely changed…”. Further, as Chalida points out, “Now given various colours in society, if a particular movie appears in a different colour from that of the board, it could be banned…”.

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