BANGKOK — The president of a state-owned broadcaster said he had never ordered the host of a political debate program be fired as she has alleged.
In a statement released late Saturday, MCOT president Kematat Paladesh apologized and said the reports came from miscommunication, as executives met after the most recent episode of “Election War ‘62” and agreed that the next debate, on the topic of social welfare, should be hosted by economics reporters instead.
“The first two debates might not have gone very smooth, which is normal for a live program,” he said. “… [F]or the debate about the government’s social welfare program, we might swap the original hosts with another pair who have more expertise in economic and financial issues.”
Orawan Krimwiratkul, who hosted the first two debates with writer and host Veera Theerapat, announced Friday that she had been fired from the show by the board after the second debate due to allegations of bias. She limited access to her Facebook profile Saturday morning as news reports blew up and could not immediately be reached for comment.
Last week’s debate saw young voters and novice politicians voice nearly unanimous opposition to positions taken by the military government. It ended with no mention that there would be a change of hosts.
Orawan’s post drew outrage over the perceived attempt to silence opposing views on the eve of an election. The broadcast journalists’ association also released the statement condemning the decision.
Kematat insisted that executives won’t try to silence reporters and anchors at the broadcaster.
“As a president of MCOT, I’m fully aware that ethics and freedom of the media is crucial. Therefore, the management at MCOT gives freedom to our news teams and won’t step in to intervene,” he said.
He said the board would meet Monday to discuss what’s next for the program, adding that they might change hosts again for the final debate on March 14 about post-election Thailand and their live coverage of Election Day.
“I’d like to apologize for the miscommunication and take responsibility for what happened,” he said.
MCOT’s third live political debate called “Government Social Welfare: Pipe Dream or Reality?” will air Thursday.