BANGKOK — Junta chairman and Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha presented his own view of media ethics in a speech marking Thailand's National Media Day on Thursday, urging journalists to go beyond merely "reporting the facts."
"This morning, someone said the media needs to be impartial. No. I don't think they should say that. It isn't good," Gen. Prayuth said to reporters on a day intended to celebrate freedom of the press in Thailand.
"What they should say is, first, media should report news that is factual. Second, they should support the government's efforts to move the country forward. And third, they should help reduce conflicts in society, and create understanding about the government's policies that give clear results. Can you not do these three or four things together, dears?"
He continued, "If this person says, this side good, that side not good, if media keeps presenting news like that, when will our country have peace?"
The general then wished the media happiness and told the journalists to "be good reporters, be quality reporters, and be lovely reporters."
"It's good that some media does cooperate with the government, but some media are not so good. However, I don't want to say their names," said Gen. Prayuth.
Urged by reporters to identify the offending news outlets by name, the junta chairman replied, "No I won't say it. I'm too lazy to do it."
Since seizing power from an elected government on 22 May 2014, Gen. Prayuth has significantly curtailed freedom of expression in Thailand by imposing a ban on public protests, sending violators to face trial in martial court, and urging the media not to criticize his regime, among other restrictions.
On 27 February, Gen. Prayuth warned that any news anchors or talking heads who present opposing views about his government on television may be summoned for "discussion."
"Many shows and many channels still have problem with this," he said in a televised address to the nation. "I may need to summon you for a discussion. I am not censoring you. But you invite academics and guests who give totally opposite views of the issues. They talk about things that are incorrect and inaccurate."
Due to the plunge in civil rights and media freedom in post-coup Thailand, the US-based organization Freedom House declared Thailand as "Not Free" in its annual report in January this year.
The status of "Not Free" put Thailand alongside neighboring countries like Myanmar, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The Kingdom was ranked "Free" from 1999 to 2005, and "Partially Free" for the past eight years by Freedom House.
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