Anti-Thaksin media ‘face govt threat’-The Nation
March 14, 2008
Anti-Thaksin media ‘face govt threat’
As division between supporters and opponents of Thaksin Shinawatra continues, any media critical of ousted premier Thaksin and the current government may soon be threatened by the Samak Sundaravej administration, warned Supinya Klangnarong, secretary of the Campaign for Popular Media Reform.
The Nation: March 11, 2008
[Past FACT coordinator] Supinya said media at threat included broadcast media such as Channel 9, Thai PBS and community radio as well as the Internet and newspapers.
“They will try to put their people into Channel 9 and Thai PBS,” Supinya told The Nation. “With Thai PBS, they won’t find a way immediately due to legislative protection, and for Channel 9 there’s the board that needs to be replaced. But I believe they will definitely do it.”
Supinya said Thai PBS may escape the wrath of the new administration if it fails to attract enough viewers to pose a threat, but the government has been trying to force community radio stations to relay some of their programmes in a systematic manner.
“I’m against relaying the government’s programme. It’s also not appropriate for Samak to have a TV and a radio programme, but it has now become a tradition after both Thaksin and Surayud [Chulanont] used airtime when they were premier. But it’s not fair to the opposition leader unless they have equal airtime.”
On the Internet, the issue of the monarchy institution is likely to become a topic for crackdown even though society has no chance to deliberate the issue, said
Even newspapers, regarded as more independent than broadcast media, may not be spared, although interference through control of advertisers may be less pronounced than during Thaksin’s time.
Supinya urged the public to learn to not just guard freedom of expression but also to learn about tolerance. This comes at a time when some media have gone either completely against or for Thaksin. “We must allow others to speak and accept diversity.”
Failing to tolerate differing opinions could mean that some powerful groups may exploit the situation to curb freedom of the press and freedom of expression by reasoning that Thailand is not ready for it.
Pitharn Klikajai, executive editor of pro-Thaksin Prachatouch newspaper, said he believed the Samak administration would uphold press freedom. “I do not believe they will interfere with the media. This government is so closely watched. Also, I don’t think they’re thinking of that.”
He denied his paper was pro-Thaksin, saying the paper merely wanted to “do justice” to the ousted former premier.
Mass Communication Organisation of Thailand (MCOT) head Vasant Paileeklee said he did not believe he was a target for removal as he was appointed by a selection committee and not the military junta.
Vasant admitted, however, that the Samak administration could still interfere as the government is the majority shareholder of the privatised MCOT.