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Reactive blogger (~and more~)

Freedom of the Press in National Legislative Assembly

Bangkok Post reported that some will collect petition to withdraw members of the mainstream press in the National Legislative Assembly. The matter fro me was “honest watchdogs” but the watchdogs had been discredited already whether or not they would be withdraw and many does not seem to mind.

Between nominal political participation and freedom of the press, as admittedly we could not expect the press to be “neutral,” what the government did was a smart move. Who would believe in mainstream media if they question the coup and the government, especially when they are invited to join the assembly.

Despite many would cite this as “balanced” political participation, if media are to be included, what about community radio network and citizen reporters, and Prachathai. Despite the media can also participate in drafting the constitution and monitoring national affair, they can do it and they have to do it anyway. Putting the media in the assembly just to have their voices heard is just useless and very very tricky.

Group to push for withdrawal of media people
NLA no place for honest watchdogs

By Post reporters

A group of media activists is preparing to push for the withdrawal of media representatives from the National Legislative Assembly, saying that to become an honest watchdog one needs to first give up the role of a lawmaker.

Their withdrawal request would be submitted to the Press Council of Thailand, the Thai Journalists Association and the Broadcast Journalists Association.

They maintained that the media must stay neutral and on the sidelines in vetting all parties, including the legislative branch. Such principles may be compromised in the event that the press has jumped on board as a regulator. The journalists sitting on the assembly would also face a conflict of interest for pocketing double pay cheques for their news coverage and for holding a parliamentary post.

The group opposing their appointments plans to collect signatures from their counterparts to support their call and declare their stance tomorrow.

Fongsanan Jamornjan, director of Radio Thailand, said there was no need for media representatives to sit on the assembly just to gain some information, as information could also be obtained via other channels.

She said: ”If the press is jumping on the bandwagon and drafting the rules as well, how can you expect the public to believe that the media will keep digging and exposing the truth?”

But TJA president Pattara Khumphitak, one of the targets, defended the decision to accept the assembly membership and said it had been thoroughly considered so that the press representatives could have a say in the drafting of the new constitution. Media representatives were among the people picked by the Council for National Security to form the 242-member assembly. Their duty is to approve laws and supervise the drafting process of the new constitution.

Silpakorn University rector Wiwatchai Atthakor has criticised the assembly’s composition as being over-represented by military leaders and technocrats. It also includes people who had close ties with the previous government.

”The future charter pins the country’s destiny. If the appointment of representatives to sit on the NLA is not well-balanced, it could greatly affect the future of democracy,” he said during a seminar on the future of Thai politics, democratic process and social justice. The assembly has 76 generals, both police and military, almost one-third of its total but no representatives of farmers and workers.

The academic warned that the interim government’s decision to retain some populist policies championed by the deposed Thaksin administration could backfire because both the NLA and the interim government might not be able to thoroughly scrutinise their legal details during the 12-month charter drafting period, seen as too short. However, the interim government led by Gen Surayud Chulanont should not use its one-year term as an excuse to ignore any political, economic and social problems, he said.

Amara Pongsapich, director of Chulalongkorn University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, said the public should keep an eye on the interim government’s work to ensure that no legal loopholes are exploited by politicians to protect their own interests, she said.

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Filed under: Free speech

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