Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Nation 's Shamelessness Continues

The Nation Editorial

As tens of thousands of red-clad protesters rallied in Bangkok yesterday in their bid not only to topple Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government but also to abolish what they called "bureaucratic polity", the Thai media was caught in the crossfire.

Over the past weeks, news consumers have heard several terms that the protest leaders use to claim they are fighting for a certain ideology. The media's challenge, or main task perhaps, is to report the claims, mudslinging and developments without aggravating the situation while making sure that professional requirements are also fulfilled.

The Nation has never bothered in the last 7 years or so to do serious reporting on Thaksin or anything related to this conflict. In fact, it has taken sides. Suthichai Yoon's editorial position has been to act like a Chinese Godfather out for revenge. It has taken the side of the aristocracy, the military, the PAD and the Democrat Party. It hasn't even pretended to be fair, so all its hand wringing about the media's role in this conflict is laughable.

Last year, the then anti-government yellow-shirt protesters confused the public with the term "new politics".

Suddenly these phrases have become buzzwords in the press. They emerge in the headlines every day, even though reporters might not fully understand what these expressions are all about.

Don't know what they mean? How about asking the people who coin the terms what they mean? Of course, The Nation knows, which is why you are supposed to bow down to their interpretations, as if the editors are all Buddhas giving a sermon on what is right and good.

The current political crisis has come this far, thanks largely to the use of information technology. The yellow-shirted leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy managed to spread their views via cable TV, while the red-shirted demonstrators are doing the same.

The Nation should probably ponder why the alternative media is so popular and has such a loyal following. The answer is simple: They provide a service that is not available in the main stream media.

Thaksin knows well the nature of the press, that the newspapers and electronic media will certainly report what he says in their headlines the next day, and that's the reason he uses video links to spread allegations against his political opponents.

Several of his claims have been dismissed as groundless, but still they find their way into the mainstream media. Readers and TV viewers have been confused by these allegations. The media has so far played the role of messenger for both sides. The intention is admirable for the media is simply trying to balance their views. However, the media - albeit unknowingly - has inflamed the political tension by falling into the traps of this political game.

The Nation has done nothing to present the views of both sides. Its editorial position is clear as day. It hasn't done reporting to prove what Thaksin is saying is the truth or a lie. It never proves what Sondhi Lim is saying is the truth or lies. All it does it is regurgitate quotes from puuyai, then spins an anti-Thaksin message.

For instance, much has been said about "amatayathippatai" or what political scientists have tried to translate into English as "bureaucratic polity", even though most people don't know what they are talking about. The red-shirt protesters claim they want to abolish this amatayathippatai system, and the press reports the news as such. This is despite the fact that, judging from the speeches of several red-shirt leaders, the conflict boils down to a personal issue. They simply want to target Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, on the say-so of Thaksin.

Wrong. Many political observers know what the "bureaucratic polity" is. It is the unholy alliance of the royalists, the bureaucrats, the military and the judges to rule and do politics behind the scenes without any democratic accountability. If The Nation really thinks the red shirt movement is just about Thaksin and Prem, then they really are clueless and their political analysis is worthless.


Over the past few weeks, the local press has tried to report what both sides say, as is their duty as members of the media. The leaders of both sides seem to understand very well the nature of the press and they try to manipulate media space to their advantage. Certain incidents have been leaked to the press without verification.

Some journalists and news outlets take a neutral political stance while others clearly reveal their political affiliations. This is normal in a democratic society and Thailand should cherish the fact that the Thai press has been able to exercise its freedom to report so far.

However, the ongoing political crisis is very sensitive, and if the press is not careful about how some things are reported, the result could be an explosion of violence. Some reports might result in misunderstanding and cause more division in society. Therefore, journalists must ensure that they don't report news in such a way as to inflame the crisis.

The Nation lectures while ignoring its own advice. Unbelievable. It prints ever lie, innuendo and rumor as fact without any independent verification all the time.

Also, The Nation has openly advocated the use of state and military media, as well as state coffers, to be used as a tool by the Democrats to crush political dissent. It doesn't believe in free speech for everyone. It only believes in its free speech.


Saijai & Fran├žois LAMY said...

"The Nation has never bothered in the last 7 years or so to do serious reporting on Thaksin"

Ah, I often felt that the Press (all of it) talked only about T, too much about this "subject" ...

So the real "critic" is in the word "serious" and how is defined "serious reporting" !

I bet it somewhat means partisan reporting, pro-Thaksin people are, as their "guru", very intolerant people ...

Fonzi said...

Serious reporting means doing actual fact based reporting rather than spewing unfounded lies and innuendo based on circumstantial evidence.

Thaksin would have faded in the wind a long time ago if the media weren't obsessed with him.