Saturday, February 10, 2007

Jonathan Head Slaps Down Unprofessional Thepchai Yong


Thepchai Yong's Interview with FCCT Spokesman

The Nation's Group Editor Thepchai Yong talks to Jonathan Head for "Siam This Morning" programme on Channel 5.

TY: The international media has been in the spotlight here over its coverage of Thaksin Shinawatra. Many Thais believe the foreign was hired to report what Thaksin wanted.

JH: That is a very serious accusation, extremely damaging to the reputation of all foreign journalists working here. I would like to say that anybody making a charge that the foreign media is accepting money to give publicity for Thaksin must produce evidence. It is a defamatory charge, but I haven't seen evidence.

In all my experience working with foreign media here and other countries, I have never heard of major media organisations accepting money. It is a great shock to me and distressing that the charges have been repeated day after day.

TY: What do you think about the suggestions that the foreign media is sympathetic to Thaksin?

JH: That is also a surprise. If you remember when Thaksin was in the office a lot of us had very difficult relations with him. I was often criticised by Government House when Thaksin was the prime minister for being hostile to Thaksin. The foreign media questioned Thaksinomics frequently - and we questioned Thaksin's policies.

But it is our job to question the government's policies. The government has the power to implement policies and make profound changes to the country. It is the media's jobs to raise questions. Now Thailand has the new government in power, who seized power. It is very natural for the foreign media to question why they did it. It is also very natural that we would interview Thaksin. He is a legitimate newsmaker. He is very well known [as a former] prime minister [ousted by a] coup Everybody wants to hear his views.

TY: There is an accusation that a lobbying firm tried to get media interest in Thaksin. Can a firm actually get Thaksin on the cover of Time magazine?

JH: It is not unusual. We have dealt with big businesses, big celebrities and politicians who used publicity firms, lobbyist firms. It is part of life. Thaksin is a free and wealthy man, so he can hire lobbyist firms. Journalists who want to interview them have to go to that firm. We are free to ask the questions we want.

They may try to control the environment of the interview but most journalists with experience know to deal with that.

But they can have influence. They can demand certain questions in advance but that is normal for politicians here. They can limit the time of the interview. That is also normal for politicians here. Even when Thaksin was prime minister, we had limited time with him. I don't think the use of lobbyist firms has any profound influence on the nature of the interview in the coverage of Thaksin.

TY: There have been doubts about the nature of the questions Thaksin was asked. Critics say they should have been much tougher.

JH: It always happens in an interview. People always argue that certain ques
tions should have been tougher. There are always people who are disappointed with the way the questions are asked. Each individual media has done the interview in their own style and tried to get something of the essence of Thaksin and his beliefs out of him.

I would like to make a point. Remember, the international media is broadcasting for an international audience who don't know very much about Thailand. We have to be fairly general in our style of interviewing. What's needed clearly, is that if you want to put Thaksin on the spot, then you must have the Thai media interview him.

We need to see the Thai media - who know the issues and whose readers and viewers really care about them - put those tough questions and all the details involved. Then we will see him being grilled in the way the Thai people want to see him being grilled.

Normally I hate Jonathan Head. He is annoying and his voice grates. But I have to say that he slapped down Thepchai Yong very well.

Also, take note: Everything that Thepchai Yong accuses the foreign media of is exactly how the Thai media operates.

From the lame questions Thepchai asked, one can see how the Thai media, especially The Nation, is ignorant of how the media operates in the real world. While the real world turns, The Nation lives in a world of lies, conspiracy and innuendo.


anon said...

Ouch! That interview reads like a hick reporter for a highschool newspaper interviewing somebody at the Economist. Every single question used by Thepchai is phrased using weasel words (e.g., "Many Thais believe...", "the suggestions that...", "There is an accusation that...", "There have been doubts about..."). That's really really lame.

Fonzi said...

He did the same thing with Mahathir also.