BANGKOK — A veteran reporter at a state media outlet said Friday she was abruptly fired after hosting a debate in which young voters voiced broad opposition to the military government.
Political reporter Orawan Krimwiratkul wrote online last night that she was dismissed from MCOT’s “Election War ‘62” show because her employer said she was biased. Although she said she would respect the decision, she went on to defend the format of a debate held Thursday that featured young politicians and young voters as fair and transparent.
“As one of the hosts, and a person who designed the format of the two debates on MCOT, I respect the decision of the board,” she wrote. “But as a journalist who’ve been actively working for almost 30 years, I won’t accept being branded that I was being biased in my duty.”
The episode called “New People, New Politics” assembled first-time politicians from 10 parties and invited 100 first-time voters from 16 universities across the country. The young voters were asked to vote on whether they agreed or disagreed with four statements about the current Thai political situation.
The questions were: Do you agree with Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha’s decision not to debate his opponents? Do you agree with the 2017 Constitution allowing 250 senators to elect the prime minister? Do you agree that a 20-year national strategic plan is necessary for Thailand? Do you agree that Thailand can either be fully or half democratic so long as it improves the livelihood of the people?
The overwhelming majority of students disagreed with all four statements.
Orawan said the students were not given the questions beforehand, and by giving their honest opinions managed to “frighten the powerful people and make them see these as leading questions to attack the government, when they are actually issues that all Thai people have the right to express opinions about for our future.”
The Thai Broadcast Journalists Association released a statement Saturday criticizing the decision and calling upon the broadcaster to reconsider.
“The order pulling Orawan from the show without any explicit proof that she was ‘leading the show into attacking the government,’ suggests that it was just an excuse to obstruct the press freedom. It is inappropriate … and is a direct threat to the media, including a violation of the people’s right to receive information,” the statement read.
Suwit Mingmol, president of the broadcaster’s union, said it is looking into the exact reasons that led to the MCOT board decision.
“We will see if the order is real or not. If real but not justified, or if the board refuses to reconsider its decision, we will issue a statement calling for [justice],” he said. “The program was praised by the majority of the public, as it was professionally ethical. If there’s no explanation, we can assume that there was intervention into the media’s work, which will affect the people’s decision-making this election.”
MCOT is a state-owned public broadcaster that operates a number of radio and television stations. Most content consists of news and entertainment programs with a pro-establishment slant.
The broadcaster has issued no statement of Orawan being pulled from the program.
The channel has aired two political debates. The first one, also co-hosted by Orawan, featured the top four faces from major parties and aired Feb. 21.