End of independence - The Nation, November 17, 2003
Without mentioning it is talking about itself, The Nation laments the impending end of its independent voice:
...Unfortunately, publicly listed media establishments are most vulnerable to hostile acts from outside. Under business pressure to perform better in the market, either from the shareholders or from personal ambition, the management teams have to improve profitability. New investors are unavoidable. But enlightened investors must be distinguished from bogus ones acting on the behalf of others.
Ironically, family-owned newspapers, which used to be blamed for supporting dictators, today have more room to manoeuvre than public companies. When they change colour the readers easily notice because no corporate culture is at play. Sad but true, Thailand does not have a paper owned wholly by journalists who can determine their own future.
...As the mainstream media wither, alternative media such as community newspapers may be the way forward. Such papers in provincial areas that can report on and analyse national and local politics could survive with sufficient community support. Online newspapers could be new outlets too, but they would need sufficient online readers with a new habit.
What will be the future of the Thai media, say, in the next few years? If the current leader stays as long as he says and this trend continues, the media will move towards a hybrid of tighter state and self control through voluntary submission in exchange for economic incentives, overt or discreet...
And another Nation article highly critical of Thaksin. There has been a flurry of these articles in The Nation recently. It is almost as if this is a last hurrah for this kind of writing. It does also mention something we have long been mentioning on 2Bangkok.com--that the current state of affairs is due to the 1997 constitution which was designed to eliminate minor political parties and result in a majority government with real power:
Ironically, the 1997 Peoples Constitution has enabled one man to achieve unprecedented power over government. No one thought that the electoral system that was so carefully devised by the framers of the current Constitution could have produced a prime minister with virtually absolute power to dominate Parliament, the bureaucracy and independent watchdogs.
Contrast The Nation's coverage with the Bangkok Post's leading story today (PM's goal seen as too ambitious). It is a story criticizing Thaksin for being too noble and ambitious in his attempts to eradicate poverty in six years: Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's bid to eradicate poverty is laudable, but the government's ability to do it in six years is doubtful, say academics.
Earlier: Purchase of NMG shares worries media group - The Nation, November 13, 2003
Five days after the Post reported it, The Nation chimes in on its new ownership: A nongovernment organisation on media freedom and reform will today issue a statement of concern over the recent acquisition of large amounts of Nation Multimedia Group shares by relatives of a powerful figure in the ruling Thai Rak Thai Party...
Were afraid the Nation Group will end up like iTV if Thai Rak Thai people own the firm, said Campaign member Supinya Klangnarong...
Several years ago television station iTV was renowned for its hard criticism and scrutiny of all political issues, no matter whether they involved the government or the opposition. But when Shin Corp, owned by Thaksins family, took over the station in 2000, its staff started to complain that they were being blocked from reporting stories damaging to the image of Thaksins TRT party. Some editors and reporters were forced to leave. Others quit, saying they couldnt do their work because of the constant interference.
Earlier: The Nation's 'independent' voice in jeopardy? - Bangkok Post, November 9, 2003
...Buying by Jungrungreangkit family members, whose main business interests are in auto parts, has continued throughout the year... Overall, the Jungrungreangkit family currently holds 19.1% in NMG, the largest single voting bloc in the company. According to the SET, NMG chairman Thanachai Thirapatanawong held an 8.72% stake as of late August, with Suthichai Yoon another 8.19%...
Mr Suriya, (Transport Secretary and) also secretary-general of the majority Thai Rak Thai party, denied any involvement in the NMG investment, saying only that it was made by his relatives purely for commercial reasons...
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