Thursday, December 12, 2019

Transparency essential for democracy campaigner

Sep 06. 2011
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By Pravit Rojanaphruk
The Nation

3,872 Viewed

The not-for-profit prachatai.com online newspaper has come under ferocious accusations of late, to wit that the left-leaning newspaper is actually a fake and an agent of the "neo-imperialist" United States, to use the word of its accuser, who comes by the

Cartalucci has for months demanded on Twitter that prachaitai.com reveal its funding sources but has failed to reveal his own identity.

He went on to attack prachatai on his August 10 blog posting, accusing the paper of undermining the Thai establishment's "legitimacy".

"They are traitors not just to the Thai people and the Thai nation, but traitors to humanity … traitors who wilfully help usher in global governance under the dominion of autocrats who openly plot a global scientific dictatorship."

Yours truly, who has been contributing to prachatai on a pro-bono basis since the September 19, 2006 military coup, after learning that the Thai mainstream mass media are mostly pro-coup, confesses to being disturbed upon hearing such vicious accusations made by someone who does not even reveal his or her true self.

To be fair, you can read more of Cartalucci's rantings at landdestroyers.blogspot.com.

Knowing prachatai staff for nearly five years, this writer feels they are mostly highly committed to forging a more open and democratic Thailand. Over the past five years, it has established itself as a reliable voice for real political debate, for detailed reports about the marginalised and those tried under the undemocratic lese majeste law as well as the Computer Crimes Act.

This apparently includes the director of prachatai, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, who's on trial facing a possible 20-year jail sentence for failing to remove 10 allegedly defamatory remarks about the monarchy from its webboard "quickly enough".

"Who is this person?" some prachatai staff asked me. I said I didn't know, and as much as it may sound unfair, I think the primary burden of proof falls upon prachatai itself because of its mission to promote a more transparent and democratic society.

Prachatai eventually disclosed its funding sources, with names like the US-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) spending roughly Bt1.5 million for fiscal 2011-12. In the 2010-11 year, the same amount was funded by NED, while Bt1.8 million came from George Soros' Open Society Foundation.

While there is no clear evidence that prachatai is toeing the US foreign policy line on politics through its writings and reporting, which by the way includes Thai-language commentaries written by people of various political persuasions, it would be best for prachatai to try to diversify its funding sources as much as possible.

Prachatai insisted in its English-language funding disclosure that "none of our foreign donors has ever put up any demands connected to the funds they provided, nor did they interfere with our reporting". But one can hardly be independent if a major bulk of its income comes from a few organisations.

Being too dependent on funding from the US can make prachatai shy about being critical of the US' role abroad, Thailand included. The same can be said of, say, any newspaper owned by a big corporate, which perhaps cannot be fully trusted to report critically on, not to mention criticise, the business of such a firm.

Another example is, how much can we trust a television station to criticise a major politician when the station's owner is the son of that politician?

Cartalucci's conspiracy may be farfetched, delirious even, but then prachatai.com, as a self-avowed "independent" media champion for democracy, must try harder to be less dependent on funding sources aligned with a superpower.

Equally responsible for ensuring the survival of prachatai are the local and foreign readers of this bilingual website, however. As a Thai saying goes, "one cannot borrow someone's nose to breathe forever".

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