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Media standards already drawn up, pre-empting proposed council

Jun 28. 2017
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By THE NATION

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THE NATIONAL Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA)’s media reform committee has already drawn up media standards, even though the pending controversial media regulation bill would assign that duty to the professional media council, which has not yet been set up.

The draft guideline was introduced yesterday in an opinion-gathering session for the bill, hosted by the committee and the NRSA, at Suan Dusit University. Professionals from media associations turned down an invitation to join yesterday’s seminar.

The bill was proposed as part of the committee’s media reform recommendation proposal and endorsed by the NRSA in May. It stipulates that it is the media professional council’s responsibility to draw up the guidelines to keep up with changes in society and cover various aspects such as accuracy, fairness, awareness of impacts, and responsibility. 

The committee’s print media sub-panel, however, has already developed the guideline, laying out six major frameworks for the media. They range from accuracy and accountability of news sources and of reporting, impartial treatment of advertisers, prevention of conflicts of interests, news sensitivity on certain subjects including supernatural matters, gifts handling, and accountable online reporting.

Concerning accountable sources of information, the guideline says that reporters should rely on the primary rather than the secondary sources, and if secondary sources are to be cited it must be clearly identified. Otherwise, reporters must verify the information retrieved before reporting it.

Regarding accountable reporting, it is suggested that the media be careful about publishing any news that could be exaggerating and refrain from using misleading headlines. And in any broadcasting debates, the media should make sure participants or interviewees are credible.

ACM Kanit Suwannet, chairman of the media reform committee, said that the intention of the seminar was to gather opinions to help develop the central guideline for a media code of conduct. 

Alongkorn Ponlaboot, vice chairman of the NRSA and a former journalist, emphasised the need for media reform to ensure it could be a mouthpiece for the people and to make it report responsibly.

Metinee Thepmanee, vice chairman of the sub-committee, emphasised the importance of the media as a channel for people to voice complaints against misconduct in government agencies. She expected that the media and government agencies would fulfil their task to be pillars of the country. 

Independent media expert Tham Chuasathapanasiri said that according to polls, self-regulation had not been successful and that people supported media reordering and regulation. 

Tham said a study conducted by Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Communication Arts had found that although there had been a professional code of conduct based on current self-regulation for more than five years, issues kept emerging. This was because of the complicated procedures and exclusiveness. 

Tham said that there is an issue of being “considerate” towards one another, (Kreng Jai in Thai), and there was therefore a failure to enforce the code against media members or outlets that break the code. 

Chalermchai Yodmalai, a senior media professional, said that the media was a business and could not report only meaningful news. He said that despite the regulation, media reform might not be effective if society did not do its part in shaping a good media.

Major media groups, including the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), remained quiet on the committee proposal as they viewed the new standard as part of the bill that infringes on press freedom.

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