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Prime minister pressures media to "take the government's side" in coverage of escalating conflict

(TJA/IFEX) - The following is a 26 August 2008 press release by TJA and three other Thai media organisations:

A Joint Statement on the Journalistic Duty to Report on Political Conflicts

We refer to the statements made by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on the afternoon of 26 August 2008 about journalists' duty to report on the demonstrations by the People's Alliance for Democracy against the government. In conclusion, the prime minister urged the media to take the government's side in its reporting and not to cooperate with those the government deemed as national agitators, in effect urging the media to no longer stay neutral. He also said that if half of the media community sides with the government's opponents, it will be construed as contributing toward destabilising the country.

The Confederation of Thai Journalists, the Thai Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association and the Thailand Cable TV Association would like to express their disagreement with the call made and the position taken by the prime minister because they are wrong and go against the principle of journalists' duty to provide comprehensive reports on the situation.

On the contrary, if the media distorts the information or allows itself to be used as a propaganda tool of any group, this would only result in confrontation within the society and lead to violence which is undesirable to all sides.

As for the prime minister's proposal calling on the media to choose sides, we reiterate that media of all branches should side with the people (. . .).

Therefore, under the current political conflict, the four aforementioned media professional groups throw their support behind all media and urge them to report the facts from all sides in an honest and accurate manner, and to strictly adhere to journalistic ethics. By providing a comprehensive and fair report of all parties concerned, the media will enable the public to receive as much accurate and comprehensive information as possible, enabling them to form their own judgments.

Finally, we urge the government to exercise great caution with a strict adherence to the rule of law in maintaining peace and order. The government must not use the media as a tool to instigate hate among the people against any side in order to justify its use of violence against the demonstrators, who are also Thai.

We urge all sides to seek peaceful means to solve the current problems.

For further information on the People's Alliance for Democracy protests, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/96447

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