Press coverage of charter issue 'reflects the political divide'
Reporting on the charter-amendment issue in local newspapers has been largely critical of the plan and presented as a dramatic narrative, with front-page headlines openly attacking the government and stories adopting satirical language and labelling, a study on six Thai newspapers has found.
The study, commissioned by MediaInsideOut.net, a critical media website, was conducted by former Chulalongkorn University mass communications lecturer Ubonrat Siriyuwasak.
Ubonrat and her team studied six newspapers and their coverage of the issue of charter amendment through straight news reporting, editorial writing and commentaries.
The six newspapers were ASTV Manager Daily, Matichon, Kom Chad Luek (a sister daily of The Nation), The Bangkok Post, Thai Post and Thai Rath.
Ubonrat said the study covered the period between April and July 2012. It concluded that papers opposing the amendment plan cited allegations that amendment of the junta-sponsored constitution would lead to the abolition of the monarchy institution and was nothing but a ploy to whitewash Thaksin over his alleged crimes.
Regarding commentary, Ubonrat said Matichon appeared to be more open compared to the five other newspapers. Amongst the six papers, Matichon was most openly pro-charter amendment while Thai Post was the most opposed to it, followed by ASTV Manager Daily.
Ubonrat concluded by saying that the framing of pro- or anti-charter amendment stances by these media outlets might simply be a continuation of the political struggle that began with the 2006 coup, but with the issue as a proxy.
In a related symposium organised by mediainsideout.net, Worajet Pakirat, de facto leader of the Nitirat Group of Thammasat law lecturers, warned that Thai society would "explode" into deeper crisis if it failed to rewrite the charter.
Worajet said that - contrary to some baseless allegations - a rewrite would definitely maintain His Majesty the King as head of state. Important reforms, such as that of the military, could only be achieved through a rewrite of the charter that would cover the issues, said Worajet. He added that immediate amnesty for political prisoners and lese majeste prisoners was needed to avoid an "explosion" in Thai society.
Worajet admitted however that any situation regarding charter amendment was unpredictable.
Thammasat University vice-rector Prinya Thaewanarumitkul said the 2007 charter had legitimacy problems even if it went through a referendum, and charter amendment was needed.
Prinya urged Thai society to use reason more than emotion to debate the issue. "We should move on [with the amendment]. To be stuck [on the issues] would be to our detriment."