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Thai Media And Governmental Control Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 1838 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The media plays very important roles in the lives of people in every country. Through the media, we are able to know the things happening around us and by that, we are able to adapt to life changes effectively. Mass media therefore can be argued to be very pivotal in the development and prosperity of every country. There is however a complicated relationship between mass media and politics. Many established democracies in Europe have had their Medias still complaining about political interference and the basis of this study is to try to find out if indeed media and government control can be parallel. This study will involve a look at different countries in comparison to Thailand to try to find a pattern.

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Thailand being the only nation in Southeast Asia that did not have colonial rule makes it to be considered a shaving one of the most libertarian medias. Thailand has a total population of 67.8 million people with its capital city being Bangkok. Currently Thailand has 538 radio stations (AM and FM) which include radio Thailand, MCOT radio network, among others. Television stations are also in plenty and they include Thai TV 3, BBTV channel 7, to name but a few. Newspapers and internet also form part of sources of media information in Thailand. With all these forms of mass media, our study will try to find out if indeed the conveyance of information by these sources is free of any government interference or if these sources of information have been compromised by the state thus making Thailand media less libertarian. In comparison with other countries, the study will also try to find out if libertarian media model still exists or if most countries have turned their media systems to authoritarian (Leyland, 2010).

Overview of the media system

Media freedom has been the subject matter of many countries over the past few years. Journalists have continued to be arrested and prosecuted. Media houses have been shut down, media bills drafted and passed by governments but the menace continues. The magnitude of government control depends mostly on the size or population of a media house is following and not lack of democracy as many would like to put it. Many non-democratic countries have freer Medias as compared to democratic countries. The government may thus choose to control popular forms of media in order to get the backing of the society

In post-communist Russia, we still are able to see no kind of media freedom; the Kremlins in Russia are in control of a large part of the media market. President Vladimir Putin chose to use the media to get the society to support him. The Kremlins have also blocked private investors from entering the media market thus benefiting from all advertising money. The Russian government is thus responsible for the media bias by choosing what to be covered by the media houses and what not to be covered. Media bias also still varies from country to country. Something referred to as media bias in the United Kingdom can be viewed to be very normal in America. This is because of the different models of media reporting that exist. Libertarian media model is also referred to as commercial and it is where the media is free to write what they want. A socially responsible media model is another form and it is more inclined towards providing information to the society making them liable to some extent to the government. Authoritarian media model experiences total government control (Gehlbach and Konstantin, 2008).

The three different models of reporting therefore present different scenarios to media bias to people of different nationalities. Media also can be presented in three different spheres. They are news production, news content and the news audience. News production entails everything involved toward the attaining of the final news output. It includes radio news, television broadcasts, internet, and newspapers. The second media sphere is the news content, which entails what, is actually said on radio or television broadcasts, what is written on the newspapers and internet walls. The third sphere is the news audience, which refers to how people react when they hear something on the radio; watch news on television or even when they read papers. With those media spheres and different types of media models in different countries, we can easily know if indeed media bias exists in a specific country (Oates, 2008).

Literature review

As earlier stated, libertarian media model, which is also referred to as commercial model, is where the media is free to write what they want. Most of the south East Asia countries have been considered for a long period to have libertarian media models. That trend or premise however is slowly ending and these can be attributed to the several political as well as economic developments, which have occurred in the previous years in that area. Political coups in Indonesia, East Timor, and Philippines to the constant protests by the red army in Thailand have threatened media freedom vastly. Governments in south East Asia have taken control of media houses, arrested journalists, and shut down many media related businesses.

The media in Philippines a few years back was purely libertarian. However, at the moment, the Philippines have a mixture of libertarian and authoritarian media models. As much as Philippines used to enjoy libertarian media model, it was not entirely free of government interference. Given the continued attempted coups in the southeast nations, the Philippine government felt that their national security would be better protected if they had authoritarian model to check the media houses, for statements about government. In addition, this would amount to tension among members of the public and thus a country which was known to have the freest media in south east Asia turned authoritarian (VOICEMASTER, Philippines, 2003).

China another country in Asia where the 2008 Olympics were held also got attention for the wrong reasons after issues arose on internet freedom. China had censored the use of internet service Google throughout the country and even Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state was at hand to condemn that move. With the rapid growing economy, the Chinese government saw it prudent to set media controls so that information about their economic progress and future prosperity plans do not get easily into their competitors possession. Chinese laws however vouch for media freedom but are not the real situation on the ground (Baldwin, Bhattacharji, and Zissis, 2010).

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On the other hand, another south East Asian country continues to make progress towards a completely free media system. Indonesia has a libertarian media model free of any kind of government interference. This occurred after Suharto who was their leader died in the year 1998. The number of new newspapers, magazines, and radio stations has increased drastically since then and even a new press law enacted in 1999 to ensure complete freedom of the media (Limpattaamapanee n d).

Malaysia, which is another south East Asian country, has had very tight government control on the media. In the year 2000 however, 1000 qualified journalists from within the country came together and signed a petition. The petition was addressed to the then home minister demanding that media freedom be void of government interference, which was at an all time high then. Even though at some point the Malaysian government looked to have heeded the petition, government control still is high because most of the media houses belong to companies, which are allied to the ruling party.

The subject of our study, which is the Thailand media, used to enjoy libertarian media model until the year 2001 when Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawwattra took office and given he won with a landslide margin over his competitors, questions were asked about the role the media played in the whole election. After he was sworn in, the government started putting tight controls on the media houses illegally. Licenses for several media houses were withdrawn citing interference with air traffic waves and the only operational media companies that survived the onslaught belonged to either the Royal Thai government or military. Even after Prime Minister Sinawwattra was removed from office through a coup by the military junta, nothing much was done to correct the trend. The current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who took over from the military junta has also continued with the status quo in the country’s media system. The media bias in Thailand is however on radio and television only. Newspapers in Thailand are not under close supervision and apart from ‘chiang mai’; all other papers are published in Bangkok where a large number of paper readers are (Assavanonda and Ashayagachat, 2007). Internet is also considered to be free as “pantip.com” one of Thailand’s largest internet forums contains all issues both positive and negative about the government. Thailand can thus be said to be enjoying both libertarian and authoritarian media models even though authoritarian is far much greater (Assavanonda and Ashayagachat, 2007).

It is so far evidently clear that it is almost impossible for countries to have libertarian models solely as their media models. Most countries prefer to combine authoritarian and libertarian to cushion them against what they refer to as national security concerns and honor of their countries and therefore as more and more countries seek to foster media freedom, it is very unlikely they will enjoy libertarian media models

Media freedom free of any government interference is very important. Journalists dream of working under such conditions that allows them to go out, look for information, and publish materials without fear of being arrested or receiving death threats. Moreover, the consumers of such information also dream of times, when they will be able to vote during elections, after being fed with enough information to help them make informed decisions on who to vote for and who not to vote for. This is actually possible since as the Electoral College, mis-representation by the government can make individuals not to vote for the right person who was on the other side of the divide.

As evidenced by the study, media and government control is something that is affecting many nations currently, and not only Thailand. In order to attain media freedom free of any kind of government interference, we need proper legislations to be passed by the governments to guarantee lack of that involvement by government. Journalists also need to be well trained on ways of relaying sensitive information to the people because at times in- experienced journalists are the reason governments decide to tighten measures in the first place. By doing that we can again be sure of a libertarian media model, which is the best by every standard.


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