Monday, March 5, 2007

Thai Media: Reporter's Day or We are a Disgrace to Journalism Day?


Thai media outlets will need to rediscover their integrity

Today is the auspicious occasion of Reporters' Day.

Given the tumultuous developments over the past seven years, including the aftermath of the coup on September 19 of last year, Thai journalists have displayed a paucity of media ethics that has never before been seen. They have failed to practice what they preach. Conflicts of interest and hypocrisy have been rampant, while the messengers have become king-makers at one end and cheap-shot surrogates at the other. It is imperative to take a closer look at the Thai media to see what has become of them now. A snapshot of the Thai media's 150-history would remind us all that the benchmark for media professionalism was set a long time ago when a free media environment did not exist and financial rewards were unheard of.

During the reign of Rama V (1868-1910), a young Thai journalist named Thien Wannapho (1842-1915), popularly known as Thienwan, wrote numerous articles that challenged the highest wielders of power in all aspects without fear or favour. He repeatedly called for the abolition of slavery, ending all forms of gambling, establishing a parliamentary democracy, as well as fighting against corruption and injustice in all forms. When he wrote a petition to King Chulalongkorn on behalf of a Thai citizen he was accused of lese majeste and defamation against Cabinet members. As a result, he was caned 50 times before being made to face a 17-year jail term at the age of 40. During the first two years of his imprisonment, he was tortured inhumanely with wooden bars around his neck, hands, and feet day and night. His body was crippled but not his spirit. No newspaper would publish his articles for fear of prosecution, however he would give his writings to those who dared to publish them at their own peril, mostly in the form of funeral memorial books or free booklets.

Thienwan was well known for his straight talk. He wrote in clear and crisp Thai prose without any pretension. His criticisms aimed at the top echelon were acerbic, and so were his writings lashing out at ordinary folk. No one, it seems, escaped his well thought out commentaries. As strange as it might seem, what he wrote over 100 years ago is still appropriate for the current situation in Thailand and the leaders and people who are caught up in it.

The versatile journalist, who taught himself law and philosophy, was not kind to his fellow citizens, whom he called "foolish common folk". He said they were without any intellect or knowledge but loved gambling, which had no usefulness to their country or religion. He often ridiculed top bureaucrats, known as senabodi, who frequently violated laws and regulations to serve their own vested interests.


The Thai media has always been horrible. The notion that Thailand had the freest press in Asia is a joke.

Has anybody ever seen an investigative report ever done in Thailand?

I'm still waiting for a news investigation of the airport fiasco and the depth of Thaksin's nefarious empire.

Suthichai and Thepchai ain't Woodward and Bernstein.

And the Thai polity seems to agree with me:

Readers seek in-depth press coverage

Bangkok residents want newspapers to act more responsibly and to provide more in-depth reports, according to a poll marking Reporters' Day today.

The Abac poll on readers' expectations of the print media found that 89.6 per cent of respondents wanted newspapers to report the news in a more responsible fashion. Meanwhile, 88.9 per cent said they wanted to read more in-depth reports and 88 per cent wanted reporting to be more reliable.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Nation is a disgrace and a blot on journalism. The whole lot of them wouldn't know what journalistic integrity is if it comes up and bites them in the face. So it is only with the nerve of a hypocrite and a fraud that a revolting Suthichai could claim to be the "real thing" in television journalism while advising the coup leaders to stop being apologetic with a straight face; and a nauseating Kavi could write about Tienwan's courage in the face of torture in one breath and turn around and lick the boots of the coup leaders in another by claiming to have more freedom post-Sept19. Now the same loud mouths are rewarded with making money and fouling the air on just about every television channels with journalistic gems such as the television interviews of the three ambassadors. The Yoons, the Yongs, the Kavis, the Sophons, and the Thanongs are the pits of the journalistic world.