Journalism: 4) Prachathai website’s numerous “Global-Class” journalism award anchors in “New Media”

  • By Tammy, Thai Intel’s humanity journalist

Prachathai, a website based news outfit, have been winning and winning global class level awards-from bravery in journalism to human rights.

And the big debate in Thailand, that in a way is related to Prachathai winning awards, is about “new media” vs “traditional media” with the discussion going deeper than the physical outlet of the news, on paper vs internet-but to the actual content of the news itself.

Siam Intelligence Unit, for example, poses the question, quote: “Why do so many Thais says the Thai press have taken sides.”

  • It used to be, that only large mainstream press in Thailand have the size and resources for the potential to win prestigious global class journalism award.

The fact is, however, never had a Thai traditional mainstream news won a single global class award-apart from a photo-journalism award now and then on the various Thai crisis.

  • Can the likes of Bangkok Post, Nation, Manager and the rest ever win a global class award? Well, the main purpose of Thailand traditional mainstream press is “Not the Search of Excellence” but the fact is, most of them are there to “Serve” the Thai establishment control of Thailand.

However, here in Thailand, Prachathai, a website-based new media, have won numerous “Global Class Awards.”

Meanwhile, the Thai press council or association or something like that-is seeing their traditional media members, pulling out of the council-where the council is called and recognized by most neutral observers as having a “Political Agenda.”

It should be noted also, that Freedom House, now calls the Thai journalism community, as “Not Free.” It only takes an observer of Thailand, to look at traditional media such as the Nation group, Thai Rath and Manager-to see that a big chunk of the Thai free press-have in fact, sold their soul to the Thai establishment.

Thanong Khanthong, an editor at the Nation Group, says it all, quote: “Democracy, freedom, justice and human rights are not Thai values.”

The following is from Bangkok Post

Prachathai wins human rights award

    Published: 14/09/2011 at 04:35 PM

    Online news:

Prachathai editor Chiranuch Premchaiyaporn is among 48 recipients from 24 countries who have received prestigious human rights Hellman/Hammett grants for their commitment to free expression and courage in the face of persecution.

She is the first Thai to receive the award,  which has been administered by the Human Rights Watch since 1989.

Forty eight writers, journalists, bloggers, a singer-songwriter and a cartoonist received 2011 Hellman/Hammett grants.

The Asian awardees were honoured at a ceremony  at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand on Wednesday – 10 from China, eight from Vietnam, two each from Cambodia, Afghanistan and Indonesia, and one each from Malaysia, Singapore, Pakistan and Thailand.

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy director of Asia Division, said regional governments were increasingly attacking web portals that were critical of the ruling power – particularly in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia Representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)  called for the Yingluck Shinawatra administration to seriously review the  Computer Crimes Act (CCA) under many people,  including Chiranuch, were charged and tried.

Mr Crispin said it remained unclear what constituted a crime under the CCA, as authorities have admitted there were no standards or  guidelines of what could be considered a violation of the law.

The Yingluck  government’s inaction on the CCA clarification, even while allowing some pro-CCA views such as those of Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung and Information and Communication Technology Minister Anudit Nakornthap, would undermine democratic views, said Mr Crispin.

Chiranuch, who is currently on trail for alleged violations of the CCA and would face a long prison term if convicted, said she considered freedom of speech and democracy part of the same issue.

“Limited freedom is like not having enough air to breath and hopefully will be a timely warning for society to learn from and overcome the situation peacefully.”

The webmaster of the shutdown Prachathai web board said the fact that she was the first Thai recipient of the award was an indicator that freedom of expression in Thailand has drastically declined since the 2006 coup, and  the current administration has not so far shown any intention to reduce such a problem.

She said Thailand’s hindrance of freedom included military intervention with conventional media succumbing to the ruling power and not doing the proper checks and  balances, laws giving special powers to authorities and obsolete laws such as the Criminal Code’s article 112 – relating to lese majeste – and the CCA under which she was being  tried as manager of a web board for not removing messages quckly enough.

Zulkiflee Anwar Ul Haque, better known as Zunar, Malaysia’s top political cartoonist at online Malaysiakini, said media control was usually by a corrupt government.

“Malaysia’s internet is not just technology or hype but a political tool, and social media in my country is not just a chit-chat venue but a political forum, while the government is trying to present the nation’s image as a modern  ICT hub,” said Mr Zulkiflee.

He said there was more censorship in light of revelations of the Middle East situation. After all, the Malaysian government had already curbed media through draconian laws such as the Printing and Presses act, Sedition Act, Official Secret Act, Internal Security Act, and Emergency Ordinance.

“Prime Minister Najib Razak makes sweet promises, but in reality uses criminal laws to silence activists. With PPA,  no single item of news or an editorial cartoon is allowed to criticise the government in the mainstream media.

“Now the government is widening the scope to include internet content,” said the cartoonist, whose seven   books were banned, whose office was raided twice, the printing houses for his books were also raided, and himself briefly detained.

Heng Chakra, Cambodian journalist and editor since the early 1990s, said  past detentions and the constant threat of violence did not discourage him.

Mr Heng has continuously faced harassment, including threats on his life and criminal defamation suits filed by influential politicians and businessmen who his reporting has threatened to expose.

His two articles in early 2009 exposing corruption involving several officials close to deputy prime minister and minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An led to a 287-day imprisonment.

“Instead of trying me under the 1995 law on journalism, both the first court and the appeal court convicted me under the UNTAC criminal law for defamation and gave me one year,” said Mr Heng.

Domestic and international appeals led by journalist and human rights associations and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party to King Sihamoni led to a reduction of Heng’s sentence.

The following is from the Nation

Embattled Prachatai director Chiranuch wins international Courage in Journalism Award

By Pravit Rojanaphruk

The Nation on Sunday

Published on May 15, 2011

Embattled director of Prachatai.com on-line newspaper Chiranuch Premchaiporn was among three female journalists who won the 2011 Courage in Journalism Award given by the International Women’s Media Foundation.

Chiranuch, who is currently on bail and fighting charges under the computer-crime act due to alleged lese majeste remarks posted on the Web board she administers, was praised for her “extraordinary dedication”.

The two other awardees facing pending danger and threats and political pressure are Adela Navarro Bello of Mexico and Parisa Hafezi of Iran.

All three were praised for their “extraordinary dedication covering violence, corruption and social unrest in their countries”.

“We are proud to recognise these brave women, who endure the most incredible trials to shed light on the events vital to the nations in which they live,” IWMF executive director Liza Gross said in a statement. “They exemplify the crucial role of the press in society.”

They will be “honoured” in Los Angeles and New York in October, the statement said.

Adela Navarro Bello, general director and columnist for Zeta news magazine in Mexico, reports on the escalating violence and corruption in the border city of Tijuana. Navarro Bello, 42, “has refused to remain silent, despite repeated warnings that she is being targeted by drug cartels”, the statement said.

Parisa Hafezi, bureau chief for Reuters in Iran, “has been beaten, harassed and detained while covering public opposition to the government. Hafezi, 41, is under constant surveillance. Government officials have raided her home and office and threatened her”.

Chiranuch, 43, the statement cited, “faces up to 70 years in prison for anti-government comments posted on her website. She has been repeatedly arrested, her offices have been raided and her website has been blocked multiple times by the Thai government”.

“We at the IWMF are thrilled to honour these extraordinary journalists who have risked everything to tell the important stories of their time and place,” said Judy Woodruff of the PBS NewsHour programme and chair of the IWMF Courage in Journalism Awards.

The Courage in Journalism Awards honour women journalists who show extraordinary strength of character and integrity while reporting under dangerous circumstances. Including this year’s honourees, 72 journalists have won Courage Awards and 20 journalists have been honoured with Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Despite the sensitivity and censorship over the lese majeste related issue, Chiranuch’s and Prachatai.com’s struggle are now being covered and discussed more widely abroad and domestically on Thai mainstream mass media.

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