THE THAI Journalists Association yesterday issued a statement in response to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's accusation that the media took "an order" to attack the government for money.
Manop Thip-osod, the TJA’s vice president for press freedom and media reform, labelled Prayut’s remark groundless and unfair.
Manop said Prayut mentioned news reporting when making the allegation, which suggested he was referring to members of the print media. As a representative of print-media organisations, Manop could not accept the accusation and take no action against it.
Manop said the print media were normally run by private companies and could be audited at any time, while journalists take salaries from companies. So to say that they took “an order” to write news was a “painful” accusation.
If the allegation turned out to be true, the prime minister could use the law against the wrongdoers.
“To make such an overwhelming implication against the media is not useful to the country’s administration. The prime minister is here to solve problems and every sector just wants to give him moral support,” said Manop, adding that being a prime minister meant he was subject to criticism, just like any other leader.
Manop said the media had never considered Prayut a foe. The media made criticisms based on good wishes, and if the prime minister felt that this was unfair, he could respond through the media or take legal action
He said that given the deep-rooted problems of the country, the prime minister needed the support and cooperation of all sides. He should make critical issues clear so there was no room for doubts and rumours.
The TJA will meet on Monday to discuss the matter.
Prayut said he had read the TJA’s statement and if the accusations were not true, it could reject them.
However, he questioned the way the media reported, as they often offended his military regime.
He said it was not fair to him to report that his government had not done anything, when it had been trying hard to solve the country’s serious problems.
“I am friendly to all the media. I am not your foe. But that doesn’t mean you have power over me, nor do I have power over you. We need to work together to help push the country forward,” said Prayut, adding that he was not angry and did not want to engage in verbal attacks while trying to work for people.
Asked whether he wanted to meet with editors again, he said: “No, what for? I tried to talk to them but nothing has improved.
“If we talked and things improved, I might consider [meeting them]. But if we talk but nothing has changed, why do I have to waste time? It’s really about respecting one another, and I always give you respect … I apologise for the bang I make sometimes,” he said.
Meanwhile, Colonel Winthai Suvari, a spokesman for the military’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order, said the government would hold a meeting next week for 200 local and foreign journalists to “create understanding” and teach them how to ask questions that would not offend Prayut.
Winthai was quoted as saying there was no policy to stop foreign journalists from renewing their visas or applying to work in Thailand.