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The Two Sides of Censorship in #Thailand

07/06/2014

The world’s press are having a rough deal. They’re being told what they can and cannot print. Too much regulation and red tape when they are only trying to do a decent job, earn an honest crust, and keep people informed.

Or is it more about selling newsprint and ringing up the cash registers. Is their mission to accurately report both sides of a story? That didn’t seem to be paramount in their minds when the phone-tapping scandal broke in the UK. It seems the same today on their reporting of what’s going on in Thailand.

The foreign media and most bloggers in Thailand are selectively reporting the events post-coup. Talk to a wide range of Thais, from the poorer rice farmers to the well-to-do, from those of both political persuasions (red and yellow). They don’t like coups per se but they accept the sea change that has occurred in improvement of safety and the restoration of government activities. It’s going to be a slow process but departments are catching up with their work backlogs following the blockade of government offices in Bangkok several months ago. Inward foreign mail is no longer being held because protesters are stopping deliveries by blockading sorting offices. That was adamantly denied by one blogger even when he was referred to the UK Royal Mail website as confirmation!.

The same blogger incidentally who claimed to have seen only one soldier on the Bangkok streets when martial law was introduced. The implication being there was no need for tourists to cancel their visits because of martial law. He now admits the presence of soldiers is making the streets safer.  This time implying that there is no danger and tourists should not cancel their trips. Whatever the facts (and it is difficult to believe he only saw one soldier when the army went on the streets, but that was what he blogged) he spins the facts to suit an agenda, He works alongside the Tourist Authority of Thailand. those who follow him on social media hang on his every word. He blocks, as his right, those who disagree. I would say that is the worst sort of censorship. Not allowing free speech and debate. 

The media are covering the relatively few demonstrations that are anti-coup but not reporting on the wider situation of calm and business as usual throughout Thailand. If the media cannot publish what is actually taking place but are hell bent on misinformation and incitement, it is difficult to see that the authorities are wrong to block them. They are allowing factual reports. I dislike censorship but in the cases such as I have described there clearly needs to be some control on what is published. The danger always being that some sensible and accurate comment may get censored. That’s the price we pay for a media that is out of control unfortunately.

Prayuth, the army commander, broadcast a long and detailed review of events on Thai TV last night (Friday 6 June). In Thai of course but with English sub-titles. He dispelled a number of myths that were being promulgated by the media (including social media such as Facebook and New Mandala). Neither has been blocked even though much of what they report is mischievous and inaccurate. Maybe, the view is that they are digging themselves into a bigger and bigger hole by their misinformation and the majority are ignoring them anyway. Blocking them would be counter-productive and make them into martyrs. Most of the comments come from those living outside Thailand.

Surprise, surprise, the foreign media reported none of what Prayuth was saying to the Thai nation. I’ve seen nothing at the time of writing and his announcement was 12 hours ago.

The authorities are not wielding big sticks against the media. They are trying to encourage more reasonable reporting. They are only infrequently using their powers to censor and block as last resorts. The fact that they are still allowing many sites to operate at will is evidence of that.

A more impartial blog is that of Andrew Drummond, an investigative journalist trained to tell things as he sees them, whether politically correct, flavour of the month, or not. His site is at http://www.andrew-drummond.com and he has reported on foreign press involvement

I encourage comments.

 

 

 

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