As a legal entity, the TJA is eligible to nominate two candidates for the NRC, and board members agreed that the association should not lose this opportunity to help introduce and work on media reform. Initially, the TJA had decided that it would not nominate anybody from its board, but after much discussion, they settled on two names, including that of the TJA president Pradit Ruangdit.
“There has been lobbying by all sorts of people in the media and the media business. If the biggest association of media professionals does not send anybody, then the candidates will eventually come from media businesses, who are not really professional journalists. Then what kind of media reform can we expect?” This was one of the many points brought up at the meeting.
The TJA also nominated two more candidates in its capacity as a co-founder of the Foundation for Media Reform, but they need the approval of the other co-founder, the National Press Council of Thailand (NPCT).
The TJA had initially voiced concerns that no real media professional would have a chance to participate in media reform, and hence urged other media agencies to step up to protect the principles of freedom of press.
However, some people have questioned the decision of professional media agencies to nominate their own people. In the past, former TJA president Pattara Khumphitak ended up having to give up his post after joining the 2006 National Legislative Assembly.
Also, observers have been considering the list of the committee tasked with selecting names for media reform with equal doubt.
Announced on Wednesday night, this seven-member selection panel comprises a retired military officer, a media executive, an advertising executive, an official from the broadcasting and telecommunications body, a media academic, a veteran journalist and a former senior official from the government’s public relations agency.
The soldier in the selection panel is General Noppadol Intapanya, who is also adviser to the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). He is a close friend and aide of former defence minister and ex-Army chief General Prawit Wongsuwan.
He was also married to Pantipa Sakulchai, president of Thai TV Pool.
Jamnan Siritan Nunbhakdi, chairperson of the Radio-Television Broadcasting Professional Federation, is obviously seen as a representative of the business aspect of media as she is chief of television company JSL Global Media. She is also believed to have close ties with the military.
Some choices not clear
The role of Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommuni-cations Commission, however, is not clear as he has yet to prove himself.
Similarly, the performance of Wannee Rattanaphon, chairperson of the advertising Media Agency Association of Thailand, will also be closely watched.
The inclusion of Pirongrong Ramasoota Rananand, lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Communication Arts, appears to be the most appreciated, as she has been active in her academic role.
Veteran journalist Samroeng Kampa-u, who was TJA president from 1987 to 1988 and editor of Siam Rath newspaper, is another member for selection. Samroeng has yet to put down his pen as a writer.
The last person on the list is 80-year-old Arun Ngamdee, former director-general of the Public Relations Department.
Nevertheless, Wilasinee Pipitkul, an executive with the Thai Health Promotion Foundation and a former lecturer in journalism who has been working with several networks and is pushing for reforms in many areas, said the names of the NRC selection committee were acceptable.
She also pointed out that members of media were part of selection committees for other aspects of reform.
“I believe the seven panel members understand the media system, if not in detail, then at least in terms of structure. I also think that the aim of media reform should be to promote media literacy and a sense of citizenship among the people.
“The point is to free the media from politics, capitalism and other influences. I believe the panel will work and push for reform in this direction,” she said.