Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Nation Gives its Blessing to Media Competition From the Thaksin/Enemy Camp


Govt must tolerate dissent

New media group PTV should be allowed to air its shows on cable despite its links to Thaksin supporters

The Surayud government and the Council for National Security (CNS) appear unsure of what to make of a new media company set up by former Thai Rak Thai members, and led by party executive Veera Musigapong, which will produce programmes for cable TV operators countrywide. Although the nature of the planned programming remains unclear, the company is expected to air political commentaries and other shows that are sympathetic to the Thai Rak Thai Party and critical of the interim government and the military junta.

The prospect of Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai Party gaining access to a far-reaching communications tool to disseminate anti-government messages to people across the country must have caused unease among government leaders and CNS members. The Puen Pong Nong Pee Company Limited, or PTV, was created at a time when the government is busy trying to suppress "political undercurrents" involving Thai Rak Thai supporters allegedly bent on stirring up a disturbance. Thai Rak Thai leaders have denied any link with PTV, which is scheduled to launch next month. The fact that Veera, one of Thaksin's staunchest loyalists, has resigned from the Thai Rak Thai Party to run the new television production company does not mean he will stop supporting his political master or abandon his anti-government stance. Indeed, Veera and other supporters of the deposed prime minister are likely to use PTV to try to reach out to the millions of Thaksin supporters in the provinces in order to help them regroup.

Despite the attempts made by the Surayud government and the CNS since they seized power to expose alleged incidents of corruption involving Thaksin and his cronies, many among the rural masses are still enamoured by the former premier's populist policies. The greatest challenge facing the Surayud government and the military junta is determining how to dismantle Thaksin's tentacles of power before a free and fair election is held before year's end. Failing that, the military coup that toppled Thaksin and efforts by the Surayud government to reform Thai politics and restore full democracy will have been in vain.

Look at what is in bold. The masses are in love with the populist polices, and so what if they are? Does that make them evil? Look at how The Nation actually encourages a political and ideological purge of anybody related to Thaksin, yet Thaksin nor any of his cronies have been indicted or convicted of any crimes. How can you have a purge when there is no evidence of breaking the law? This is some sick shit. Why not let the voters decide if they want Thaksin back? Why do the voters have to be ideologically deprogrammed first?

The stakes are high, but that doesn't mean the Surayud government and the CNS should impose an outright ban on PTV. The interim government and the military junta, who call themselves restorers of democracy, must exercise restraint and demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that they respect citizens' rights to freedom of expression and that they are capable of tolerating political dissent.

One can accuse Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai Party of many bad things that happened in this country in the five-and-a-half years they were in power, but one cannot accuse them of being stupid. The PTV project was obviously designed to test the patience and incite reactions from the government and the CNS, which Thai Rak Thai loyalists can exploit for political gain. A harsh reaction by the government, such as it preventing PTV's programmes from airing on cable television, would give Thai Rak Thai supporters ammunition to attack the government.

The government must be reminded that Veera Musigapong's PTV will be exploiting the exact same legal loopholes to transmit their programmes through cable TV as anti-Thaksin campaigner Sondhi Limthongkul's ASTV. That is to have their programmes transmitted via satellite from an earth station outside Thailand's territory to cable TV operators inside the country. This practice purportedly allows those programmes to run on cable television without being subjected to the government's broadcast regulatory bodies.

Sondhi was apparently rewarded for his anti-Thaksin tirades by the government when he was invited earlier this month to air his political commentary show on government-run Channel 11, enabling him to reach out to a wide audience. A government clampdown on PTV, even before it goes on cable, will cast the government and the military junta in a negative light. Besides there is no reason why members of the public should not be given access to a full range of political opinions so that they can decide for themselves what to believe. There is no reason why PTV should not criticise government and CNS leaders.

The government can always take legal action against producers of programmes deemed politically divisive or damaging to public morality, and private individuals can sue for defamation, and so on. The worst thing the government and the CNS can be accused of is being anti-democratic and gagging the media the same way Thaksin did.

Again, The Nation, a literal mouthpiece for the military dictatorship, has no shame. I love how it gives its blessing in allowing another news organization to broadcast a message that is contrary to its own, as if it is the only voice of media impartiality in Thai politics. What a Joke!

Look at the last sentence. Basically, The Nation is arguing that the government use its usual tools for censorship if PTV should somehow get ideologically out of hand. The Nation is saying we allow you the right to exist, but not the right to broadcast anything you want.

In other words, if PTV moves outside the ideological parameters The Nation sets out for it, then the junta should shut it down.

1 comment:

fall said...

Also noted how Nation seldomy say CNS can be "worse" than Thak's. ASTV, although seemingly illegal, can still operate to criticise Thak's government. To restrict any criticism on junta and not allow PTV. Does that not constitute a greater limit on freedom of information?