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BURNING ISSUE

Media is not there to be attacked or exploited

THERE IS no civil war in Bangkok. But some groups of people are behaving like they were in a war. Furthermore, they are dragging into their war the people supposed to be "fair" to both sides - the media.

They either try to get the media to take their point of view, or at times even physically attack media people, accusing them of supporting their opponents.

The reason behind the most recent attacks on female journalists was that the reporters were suspected of incorrectly reporting the crowd size, and that was seen as being unfair to the protesters. It would be interesting to find out what those who claim: "The media is biased. The media is taking sides. The media is not keeping a position in the middle [between the opposing sides]," really mean.

Have the speakers considered the true roles of the media? Is it true that many times opposing sides drag the media into being involved in their conflicts or their "fight"? Sometimes, through such actions they push the media to the opposing side.

Many times their allegations mean: "The media is not taking our side, therefore, it is taking the other side," or "The media is not keeping its position right in the middle."

What is "fair" reporting? Reporting the facts that happen on each side equally - even if there is lopsided information from each side - or reporting just the way it happened? At least, all should agree that reporting the facts objectively and in a well-rounded way is fair.

Have the speakers considered that praising reporting which benefited their side on a rally stage can also be an accusation the media was taking sides, although it did its work honestly in a way that was true to their profession? That is a way of trying to drag the media into being one side's supporters.

Did the critics really fairly consider their real expectations of the media? Did they consider the media's neutral stance and objective reporting?

Have they considered that eventually their attack against the media could backfire on their group as well as society as a whole?

When the media cannot do its job properly, people must depend only on rumours and let mob sentiment mastermind the way they act - often in a destructive way.

Nation Channel's Satien Viriyaphanpongsa posted on his Facebook page, "I'd like to tell the public that most journalists have stopped reporting the number of protesters for a long time as there is high risk of inaccuracy and high risk of facing mob sentiment. For the mob that attacked journalists, I wish they could hear for themselves what the reporters really said. Please don't just take others' words and then join in attacking journalists.

"I have covered many rallies, of many colour-coded groups. I noticed that field journalists only reported what they saw. They were sometimes criticised as giving too little information.

"Some protesters might have been angry that free TV gave too little air-time for coverage of their rally or exposure of the country's problems. That's true somewhat. The media is much under the influence of capital. But you cannot universalise and express your anger on field journalists. Their duty is to report. They do not have any say in allocation of airtime. Even if you killed them [field journalists] all, that wouldn't help," Satien wrote.

A free-TV field journalist, whose name I am not disclosing here, posted on his Facebook page, "We have checked and found no part of the reporting by the [attacked] journalists [to be a] distortion [of the facts]. You can re-check. When you want us to work freely, why are you limiting our freedom?

"The media in the field is also human. More importantly, it did nothing wrong. It went into the field to report what you wanted the public to see," he posted.

After what happened on Sunday, some protest leaders were discussing preventive measures with representatives from the Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association. They agreed that the protest organisers would work more closely with their guards and gain a clearer understanding with the protesters, should other attacks occur.

Journalists with a badge issued by the Election Commission were attacked on the misunderstanding that they were EC officials.

In fact, no one has the right to hurt other people, whether they are journalists or not.

And no one deserves to be exploited.




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