Thai key media organisations to govt: Define fake news, don’t control freedom of speech

Thai PBS World Centre news anchor and director Nattha Komolwathin.

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN): Thailand’s six key media organisations held an online seminar on Wednesday (Aug 4) under the topic “Are chilling effects from Emergency Decree any real?” aiming to criticise the government for “controlling people’s freedom of speech under the authority of the Emergency Decree”.

The six organisations comprised the National Press Council, the News Broadcasting Council, the Thai Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, the Society for Online News Provider Association and the National Union of Journalists Thailand.

After Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha announced on Facebook on July 27 that serious steps would be taken to deal with “fake news”, the organisations promptly issued a statement pointing out that this announcement aimed to limit the freedom and rights of people and the press.

Also, they said, branding reports as fake news is only an excuse for the authorities. They urged the press as a whole to demand that the government “stop using this excuse to control the public”.

During the seminar, Thai PBS World Centre news anchor and director Nattha Komolwathin said the government must understand that the media will always stand by people and that “our main duty is to investigate the one in power”.

“The media have an obligation to present the truth to the people, a mission that has become increasingly difficult in this online era, when misinformation is all around us,” she said.

“This has prompted the press to become more careful in fact checking and news reporting while complying with the government’s regulations during this emergency situation.

“The biggest problem nowadays is that the CCSA [Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration] has no centralised news agency to provide all Covid-19 related information from one outlet, forcing the media to find information from various sources, which could lead to unintentional reporting of fake news,” Nattha pointed out.

“We therefore would like to ask the government how would you define fake news and what are the policies to prevent the exercising of power beyond that definition, especially now that anyone can share news and information online.”

Online News Provider Association president Rawee Tawantharong said that online media are not only under the law but also under policies of each platform that aim to keep news reporting in compliance with professional ethics while allowing people to cross check the media’s credibility.

“Online media have always been committed to our duty as a watchdog for society,” he said.

“The government must have a clear definition and criteria when they say they will take action against online media that cause public panic and fear, as this policy could affect a lot of people since the number of online viewers has increased considerably,” he added. - The Nation/Asia News Network

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