Thursday, August 11, 2016

Thailand's New Charter: Foreign Journalists Stage Biased "Panel"

Thailand votes for charter, so foreign media lines up 3 speakers who voters ignored, to tell us "what's next."

August 11, 2016
(ATN) - On August 7, 2016, Thais overwhelmingly voted for a new national charter. Despite the clear outcome of the referendum, the Western media has attempted to distort the results and cast doubt on the vote's legitimacy.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) - a luxury penthouse in downtown Bangkok around which the Western media's various organizations converge - decided to cement this narrative with a panel discussion titled, "Thailand's new constitution: What next?," the description of which reads:
The people have spoken, as they say. Thailand has gained its 20th constitution by a wide margin but also with a weak turnout by its own standards -- weaker than the previous constitutional referendum in 2007, and weaker that almost any general election since the 1980s. But the result is beyond dispute and will stand, opening the way to a general election promised for 2017, and to a military-appointed senate able to control who will be prime minister, elected or not, and determine how much influence elected governments can hope to have for the next five years at least. Should this be seen as a period of consolidation and recalibration welcome to the business community or the dawn of a political ice age? And what will the majority of eligible voters who did not endorse the new constitution do next?
However, the description betrays the transparent political agenda that drives the foreign media in Thailand and their unprofessional, overt bias and hypocrisy.

Transparent Bias, Hypocrisy 
The talking-point regarding a "weak turnout" insists that because voter turnout was 60% and 61% of those who did vote, voted yes - this means that the majority of eligible voters did not endorse the charter.

This is true. However, these same Western media organizations - including the BBC, Reuters, AFP, and others - hailed the election results in 2011 in which Thaksin Shinawatra's Pheu Thai Party came back to power.

In that election, Shinawatra's party failed to achieve even a popular majority (only 48%), and of all eligible voters, received an endorsement of only 35%. Yet absent then were claims by the Western media that the results were "weak" or any mention of the vast majority of eligible voters who did not endorse Shinawatra's party.

Image: Official results would reveal a 60% turnout.
It should also be noted that while the FCCT attempts to portray the 60% voter turnout as "weaker [than] almost any general election since the 1980s," in an attempt to jeopardize the legitimacy of the referendum, it should be noted that a 60% turnout for a referendum is a stunning achievement when compared to say - the US Presidential Election - which has not surpassed 60% since 1968 - nearly half a century ago.

Finally, despite the people overwhelmingly voting for the new charter, the FCCT's panel includes only speakers who opposed it - three people who promoted a "vote no" whom the voters clearly ignored. They include two former advisers to Thaksin Shinawatra and a former aid to Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who pledged to vote "no" on the referendum.

A panel entitled, "What next?" that includes three people the majority of voters completely ignored, might be amusing if an entire nation's political future wasn't hanging in the balance, and if there weren't those charged with carrying out objective journalism who were intentionally and consistently failing their duties and abusing their credentials.

Image: Does the FCCT really believe that the thoughts of three men representing a position voters rejected on August 7 are truly relevant regarding "what's next?" 
The FCCT has exposed itself time and time again as a lobbying front, masquerading as a journalistic association to afford itself the credibility it could never have otherwise.

It may be time for petitions and calls on the government to reevaluate the visa arrangements of these so-called journalists, functioning as politically-motivated lobbyists, seeking to distort and manipulate the public, just as a lobbyist or public relations agent would do.

It's not that these foreign agents shouldn't be allowed to conduct such activities in Thailand, it is that they should do so transparently and honestly, so that the audiences subjected to their lobbying understand that it is not journalism, and so that honest journalists are not associated with those merely pretending to be.