A media conglomerate with a pro-establishment editorial bent and history of ethical lapses apologized yesterday after one of its reporters lied to protestors about which news agency she worked for.
The apology came after Nation TV reporter Mookravee Deebukkam was outed by protestors at Sunday’s anti-government rally, the biggest in years, amid rising frustration at the media for ignoring or misrepresenting the movement.
“The editorial team of Nation TV has investigated the incident and questioned the female reporter,” Nation TV said in a Monday statement. “We found that the accusations were true. We must apologize to the protestors interviewed, audience members and everyone.”
Despite a professional ethics code which demands that reporters clearly identify themselves and their affiliation, the news television channel, a subsidiary of Nation Multimedia Group, reasoned that the reporter had to lie.
“She was concerned about her safety, worried that if she told the truth about where she works, she might be pressured on her duties because lately some Nation TV reporters who cover the protests have been assaulted, pressured and scolded, some even with rude words. There was even a campaign to tell people to stop watching Nation TV,” it said.
While pro-democracy protestors have been calling out domestic media agencies for not covering the protests, the harshest criticism has been leveled at Nation for toeing a pro-establishment editorial line. At Thursday’s downtown Bangkok rally at Srinakharinwirot University, the crowd called out the Nation TV team.
“Is there any reporter from Nation here?” student activist Teerapat “Bat” Ketdon shouted into the microphone, prompting the crowd to point out the team. “Please don’t twist our words!”
Protest organizers and participants have complained that domestic print and broadcast media are providing little coverage to widening protests against the military-backed government and calls to reform the monarchy.
Tanawat Wongchai, who organized this year’s Wing Lai Loong (Run Against Dictatorship), said the mainstream media, including the largest-circulation newspaper Thairath, is too preoccupied with trivial matters such as ghost stories and lottery numbers.
“I want many media in Thailand to be more balanced, covering more of the ongoing protests instead of covering Uncle Phon” he said, referring to Thairath newspaper’s heavy coverage of a roiling tabloid tale of murder and YouTube.
As for Nation TV, Tanawat said it should do more than apologize and make changes to do better.
“They should reform the organization. If they are genuinely sorry for this, they must, from now, not be biased in its coverage or put a spin on people’s words to attack the opposition.”
Nation TV has often come under criticism for its perceived ethical breaches over the years. Days before last year’s election, a Nation TV host passed off a clearly doctored audio clip as a “conversation” between fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and rising progressive star Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party. Its management threatened to sue Thanathorn after he complained.