BANGKOK – Thailand’s media have been called on to work more responsibly and be open-minded, while other parties have been urged to show tolerance and respect for the rights of others at a seminar on “Freedom without Intimidation” to mark World Press Freedom Day yesterday.
The event was organised by the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA).
TJA president Pradit Ruangdit said this year’s theme “Freedom without Intimidation” was used to reflect the current political climate in which both individuals and the media had been at loggerheads. Media freedom should not be abused, he added.
“There must be campaigning among media organisations to act responsibly – to tolerate differences of opinion and respect the rights of each other,” he said.
Jackkrish Permpool, president of the Press Council of Thailand, said intimidation against the media had changed from using state power to locking the printers and controlling the publishers.
Associate Professor Walakkamol Changkamol, communication arts lecturer of Prince of Songkla University, Pattani Campus, said the media should put press freedom to good use. She said journalists could play the role of peace ambassadors by supporting peace dialogues.
She added that mainstream media should try to get away from the old mindset.
“Instead of reporting on political violence as a routine, the media should make local people the centre of their reporting – to help build peace – rather than only using political figures and officials as the source for their stories,” she said.
Walakkamol added that audiences were often confronted with media that supported one political stance or another.
Chaiwat Satha-Anand, director of the Thammasat University Peace Information Centre, said there was no such thing as “freedom without intimidation”. Intimidation itself is psychological, he said, and depended on how people felt towards another person’s actions. A person’s mindset could limit his or her own sense of freedom, and yet total freedom could also be dangerous, he added.
TBJA president Wisuth Komwatcharapong said media professionals must remind themselves not to be biased while reporting. The media should also be open-minded and accept regulations, as well as the scrutiny of other media organisations and the public.
The Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association yesterday made the following call to all sides:
_ All sides must support and promote freedom of expression of the people, under the principle of “freedom without intimidation”. Individuals and media entities must be allowed to express opinions in safety, without interference or intimidation by anyone. However, the media must not intimidate the freedom of others; tolerate different opinions and not incite violence.
_ The media must carry out their journalistic duties with responsibility under the framework of professional ethics. Their reports must be accurate and comprehensive and must be fair to all sides, so that the public receive accurate information. The media should realise that if they present distorted or inaccurate information, it may lead to the wrong choices by the people.
_ Maintaining press freedom is essential when it comes to political conflict. This includes the freedom to seek news and information and the freedom to report news for the benefit of the public. The media should not be interfered with by the state, financial institutions, or by any political or influential group. All sides must also join forces to protect the provision of Article 46 of the Constitution, which protects the freedom of journalists against interference by owners of media organisations, no matter whether they are private or state media agencies.
_ The media must play a role in seeking solutions for society. It must play the leading role in providing venues for all sides to exchange information and must facilitate an atmosphere in which all sides can try to settle their differences.
_ The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission must stop distorting the intentions of broadcast-media reformers. The broadcast frequencies must be distributed to the public with transparency and fairness. The NBTC must set criteria for approving terrestrial digital TV licenses and digital community TV licenses and take into account the opinions of all sectors of society.
_ In the current political climate, people are inundated with news reports, so it is important that they understand them. The people must be able to differentiate between facts and opinions and must cross-check different reports before forming opinions.
They must realise that social-media sites and news sites allow for many different points of view and if they are not careful in their interpretation of this information, they and others could face severe consequences. – Nation