World Press Freedom Day: Journalists grapple with division, changing technology

Thai media is still grappling with a major challenge to its press freedom and professionalism brought about by highly divisive politics–despite the new government.

In a joint statement released on World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) on 3 May, the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) and Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA) noted that the political divide has been worsened by the intensification media war waged by conflicting political parties over the various multi-media platforms under their control.

“This situation poses a great challenge to professionalism in the Thai media, in addition to the challenge it already faces with the changing communication technology which is highly-competitive.”

The statement also urged the government not to interfere with the media or to enact any new regulations or amend the existing ones that will erode existing guarantee of freedom of expression and press freedom that is adequately provided under the current constitution.

TJA and TBJA called all the media, in whatever form, in this deep political divide to avoid instigating violence and bear in mind that their freedom should be commensurate with their social responsibility and professional ethics.

At the public forum on “New Challenges for Press Freedom” organized by the two professional media groups, Pirongrong Ramasoota Rananand, a media lecturer from Chulalongkorn University predicted by 2016 the media landscape will completely shift into digitization. By then, the content provider regime, which is usually one entity as of now, would be segmented into several business services such as idea originator, content provider, information aggregators,  etc.

This she said may require several sets of self-regulatory frameworks that without professional ethics could potentially be become an explosive issue in the next decades.

According to her, more than 50 per cent of the country’s audience landscape is now comprised of consumers of new media, satellite and cable network, while 45.8 percent relied on terrestrial media.

Others speakers also shared their concerns and pinned  their hope on the performance of the National Broadcasting and Telecom Commission, the newborn national broadcast and telecom regulator set up to reform the broadcast industry to bring it in line with the Constitution.

In the last decade, the country’s broadcast democratization process triggered the unregulated proliferation of community radio, satellite and cable television in the rural areas, which have been used and exploited for commercial and political gains.

No single authority takes responsibility over the contents broadcast in these media that increasingly caused public concerns over health and safety.

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