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Panel to probe alleged payments to journalists

THE NATIONAL Press Council of Thailand (NPCT) yesterday set up an independent panel to investigate a report of a conglomerate company allegedly bribing journalists in return for favourable news coverage.

Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF), meanwhile, has issued a statement admitting a report was among its internal circulated documents, but claimed the content was edited out of context.

The statement said it was normal procedure for a corporate public relations arm to promote good images of its parent body while supporting advertising costs in news media it has dealt with.

The CPF statement said the public relations budget was normal spending allocated under corporate operational plans, at amounts normally not very large, which had been supervised in a transparent manner.

The NPCT, in a joint statement with the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand, expressed concern over the issue, saying it had affected both the credibility of journalism and the media outlets implicated, and the company itself.

The joint statement, signed by NPCT chairman Chakkrish Permpool, said a payment titled "a special subsidy in support of the media" to 19 senior reporters, on a monthly basis, was possibly in violation of professional ethics. Journalists are obliged not to receive any payment or benefit in any form in order to act, or not to act, in their work presenting facts to a broad public.

The purported CPF document had violated privacy of certain media members in intimate details - regarding workplaces, residences, ways of life and their attitudes, which Chakkrish said were irrelevant to their line of duty.

He added that the panel would be headed by former National Anti-Corruption Commission secretary-general Klanarong Chanthik, and comprise expert members and non-journalists.

The purported internal CPF report, as analysed critically by the Thailand Information Centre for Civil Rights and Investigative Journalism (TCIJ) and published on its website at http://tcijthai.com, also listed a number of media outlets that were on monthly payrolls.

The report detailed activities or online criticism against the company in question that were later compromised or dealt with, or eventually quelled through negotiation with superiors of those critiques, or webmasters who agreed to purge the critical comments or postings.


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