Local Media Role in Last Month’s Attacks on America Lauded

 [Original title: Thai Media Role in Last Month’s Attacks on America Lauded]

BANGKOK — The fallouts of last month’s attacks on America could have on positive effect. That is a growing professionalism of Thai media toward balanced news coverage, which in this case helped better expose Muslim world to Thai society, a seminar here was told on Thursday.

Speaking at a seminar titled “The Role of Thai Media in The World Crisis”, participants agreed general Thai-language dailiers while tapping the 11 September incident to increase their sales through usual sensational headlines and provocative pictures, they provided more spaces for alternative views on the incident from Muslim experts on Middle East and Islamic affairs.

The seminar , organised by Committee to Campaign for Media Reform and Thai Broadcast Journalists Associations was the first since the September 11 attacks on World Trade Center buildings and Pentagon which kille over 5,000 people.

Speakers also concurred the development of information technology especially Internet has provided the media with alternative views and sources of information on the incident which helped them shape their news coverage. Nevertheless, they said the information from the Internet needed to be verified and should not be used as a main material.

Associate Prof Ubonrat Sriyuwasak of Chulalongkorn University said while their dominant source of information obviously remain from western media, the Thai media has put extra amount of efforts to seek local contents and local views.

“In fact the last month’s attack on America shows that Thailand do not lack resources who know about Muslim world but the question is the media in the past did not know who to talk to,” said Ubonrat who is lecturer at Faculty of Mass Communications and concurrent chair of the Campaign.

Apinan Buranapong, President of Council of Muslim Organisations of Thailand however said the Thai media’s coverage on Muslim affairs has been more neutral and especially with more careful choice of words referring to Muslim people and Islamic religion.

Apinan said the coverage of the attack on America in particular showed a growing understanding and sensitivity of Thai media towards Muslim community.

While this represented a big leap in the history of Thai media since the end of Gulf War crisis a decade ago where the mainstream news were dominated by US-based media giant CNN, Prof Ubonrat cautioned the Thai media’s coverage in general still lacks visibility in peace advocacy.

The lecturer said there remained complacency among Thai media about the impact of their news presentation and its sensationalism towards society. “We have to admit that the media are inclined to be sensational where possible and in this case by repeating the pictures showing hatred and other aggressive sentiments or war weapons,” she said.

Ubonrat referred to the usual sights being repeated on televisions and in newspapers of the airplane slamming into the one of the World Trade Center tower and burst in flame and of the Palestinians throwing their fists in the airs in jubilant hours after the attack.

By any reasons, she said the pictures only served to promote hatred and social divisiveness and violence. She urged Thai media to give more emphasis on peace advocacy since the present military stand-off between the global anti- terrorism campaign led by the United States against Taliban government in Afghanistan which was accused of sheltering Saudi-born Osama bin Laden will not be folding anytime soon.

“The media has a significant role in shaping the public opinion toward peace, not to be swayed by war-hungry views which are predominant in US and western media. Recently polls showed some 70 Per Cent of people being questioned supported the use of military means to pressure Taliban to hand over bin Laden.

Ubonrat said there were growing views among civic groups namely Christian and Muslim groups in support of peace but the media reports on this phenomena is still not prominent.

Ubonrat also questioned the logic behind the full live CNN broadcast relay on Thai TV channels of President Bush’s 20 September speech which called the world to choose side between America and terrorists.

“While I agree this is important world incident worth of reporting. Do we need to consume every things being directed from without screening at all?” she said. Branding this approach as provocative, Ubonrat said it reminded people of the past time when there was a full live broadcast of certain incident, they would anticipate a crisis like coup d’ tat or war is going to happen.

Patcharaporn Chomklin, of The Thai Broadcast Journalists Association admitted the first few days of television and radio broadcasts of the incident were overwhelmed with the tones of wars and violence but a week later, they began to cool it down with news talks programs featuring Thai angles and views of the incident and its aftermath.

Patcharaporn admitted media business competition which is particular fierce in radio and television industry remained a major factor which forced them to go for news sources available at slotted air times. In this case, she admitted CNN was a handy source of information given its legacy inherited from the coverage of Gulf War Crisis and the fact that its headquater based in the country the attacks occurred.

Nevertheless she said there were growing awareness among Thai media circle at the same time that selling news was not only a matter of fastness but also credibility.

Nopporn Wong-anan from Reuter while agreed to the need for professional media to diversify their sources of information to balance their news coverage, he felt sympathy for the need for media in developing countries to rely on CNN or other western media giants.

Nopporn said the “CNN-effect” has become an integral part of US foreign policy formulation and assessment. Nopporn said the world-wide impact of CNN news in reflecting the US policy and its state-of-arts technology has made the network a reflection of American view world wide audience could not deny.

Other participants including Boontan Tansuthepweerawong from Campaign for People’s Media urged Thai media to raise more questions on who benefits from last month’s incident and tried to draw lessons from the past wars.

“The media has obligation to stay neutral in this conflict but that should not be an excuse not to reports on views supporting peaceful solution or alternatives to wars, ”he said.

Phairoj Pholphet , General Secretary of Union for Civil Liberty said the picture of a mal-nutritious Afghan child represented just one suffering. “There are thounsands of them being suffered as a result of famine over the last decade but were not regularly portrayed in mainstream media. “The number of sufferers is much greater than those died in the World Trade Center bombings and no one questioned why such a great number of people has to die of hunger in that country while this world is so abandon of food ,”he said.

Apinan also brought to the attention, the credibility of western-media reports that bombarded with information inclined to pass judgement on bin Laden as a culprit. He urged Thai media to make efforts to balance those reports with views from Muslims on this point. “There is no proof as yet who is the real culprit,” he said

He said the media needed to understand the fight for justice and to preserve their land and civilisation, which is allowed in Islam are not considered the act of terrorism. [By: Kulachada Chaipipat]