By WASAMON AUDJARINT
Media experts call for self-regulation
HEAD DRAFTER NOTES
LONG-SOUGHT media reform may be out of reach at present but media experts agreed yesterday that self-regulation is the way to achieve such reform – to guarantee free and responsible media norms.
The experts spoke at a forum titled “Is media reform a solution for Thai society?” organised by Thammasat University’s Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication, where the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) chairman Meechai Ruchuphan was invited to elaborate on media reform and state intentions.
A political figure with long-time exposure to the media, Meechai said what the called “media spirit” looked to have faded over time despite the increase in communication schools. This, he thought, was largely caused by business and political influence.
The head drafter, while believing that the charter should steer clear from reform efforts so authorities don’t “over-step” into the media arena, however hailed three articles in the new charter to ensure media independence.
Article 35, he said, guaranteed media outlets freedom from forced closure, while Article 98 banned holders of political office from having shares in media outlets. And Article 184 prohibits ministers and MPs from interfering in the media, he said.
But Thammasat deputy rector Prinya Thaewanarumitkul had a different view, saying that compared to previous constitutions, the new charter would upset media freedom. For example, the 2007 charter’s clause ensuring media independence from government and private dominance were not mentioned at all in Meechai’s draft.
While agreeing with self-regulation, Prinya also questioned if such efforts had ever been successful, given the media sometimes lapses when it pushes social and local issues. Civic engagement should be emphasised to drive media reform in line with social responsibility, he said.
Chavarong Limpattamapanee, president of the National Press Council of Thailand (NPCT), said that while fast-growing technology significantly enforced the media dynamic, its also drives the media flow beyond proper boundaries. A live broadcast of depressing and graphic scenes on social media was one such instance, he said.
This factor was constantly cited by powers-that-be to try to bring state regulation over the media, said Chavarong, who prefers self-regulation via a professional organisation.
He said the media bill that the National Reform Steering Assembly was currently working on, seemed to be based on a concept of regulation, unlike the 2007 charter, that was based on protecting and supporting media outlets.
CDC member and former NPCT president Pattara Khampitak also said the idea of state regulation over the media could be greatly outdated considering the fast-changing global developments, including advanced technology that has facilitated the emergence of citizen reporters on social media platforms.
Pattara voiced distaste for the use of law enforcement in media regulation, noting the current power of strict controls such as the interim charter’s sweeping Article 44, which could create uncertainty in the future once that measure was lifted.
A veteran editor, Pattara also noted that it was crucial for media workers to have the right to interview political figures to create two-way communication and maintain a balance of information between media outlets and the state.