SEAPA deeply concerned over Thaksin ally’s buy into Bangkok Post, Matichon

14 September 2005
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance is deeply concerned by a Thai media tycoon’s attempt to acquire strategic stakes in the Matichon and Bangkok Post newspapers, calling the move a “threat to media independence in Thailand.”

Considering GMM Grammy Media chairman Paiboon Damranongchaitham’s closeness to Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra, SEAPA believes the attempt to buy into Matichon and the Bangkok Post must be viewed in the context of overlapping political and business interests that have long threatened to undermine the country’s free media.

“We have long been concerned about the emerging ownership patterns in the Thai media sector—patterns that see business, politics, and government interests converging to inevitably hem in the press,” SEAPA executive director Roby Alampay said. “As it stands, the Thai Prime Minister’s family owns and controls the only ‘independent’ television network, while his friends in the business sector are in the position to influence or outright control editorial operations of Thailand’s most influential newspapers.

GMM Grammy interest in the Bangkok Post and Matichon merely reinforces our concerns that the Thai press is falling under a concentrated clique of political and business interests. Media independence can only be compromised with developments like this.”

GMM Grammy—Thailand’s biggest music entertainment company—announced Tuesday that it had bought majority stakes in both Matichon
and Post Publishing, and the tycoon said he wanted to buy up to 75 percent of Matichon’s shares.

Paiboon is known to be close to PM Thaksin, and in 2004 the businessman was tapped by the Thaksin government to negotiate a so-far unsuccessful buyout of the English premiership football club Liverpool. GMM Grammy also does business with telecom companies owned by the Thaksin family, producing, among other things, ringtones for the domestic mobile phone market.