BANGKOK — Nation TV says it did nothing wrong by airing a doctored audio clip presented as a damaging secret conversation and threatened to sue the head of a major political party for complaining about it.
The station director and host who aired the clip offered neither an apology nor retraction for broadcasting what was purported to be a surreptitiously recorded conversation between the leader of the Future Forward Party and fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Kanok Ratwongsakul, a host of the Khao Kon Khon Nation program, said during his Wednesday night show that Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit is the one who should be apologizing to Nation TV. He then threatened him with legal action should he continue to “berate” the station.
“The clip spread among his disciples so much, people are saying that Kanok and the Nation have to apologize for creating a false clip. I don’t even know how to do that. … Shouldn’t Thanathorn apologize to Nation TV?” Kanok said.
Chatchai Pokogwai, managing director of Nation TV, said Thanathorn is free to file legal action against the station. He defended its journalism.
“I would like to stand firm on the Nation’s journalistic standards. … If Thanathorn does not stop accusing Nation TV and acting in a way that damages the organization or goes against the law, then I am also ready to take legal action against Thanathorn,” Chatchai said.
The station dealt a self-inflicted blow to its credibility Tuesday by airing uncritically the audio clip, which was easily proven a fake. The backlash was fierce online, where support for Thanathorn and his party run high among younger, connected voters.
The clip framed Thanathorn as secretly taking orders to dupe young voters from establishment bogeyman Thaksin. The audio was played while silhouettes clearly representing both men were shown on screen. Netizens quickly determined it was created by splicing sound from old clips found online.
Thanathorn strongly rebuked the station when a daytime program called him a day later to ask if it was indeed him in the doctored clips.
“I never thought a quality media agency would air a clip like this. Airing it shows that the ethics and quality of The Nation have fallen,” Thanathorn said in reply.
Kanok said Thanathorn’s response was uncalled for, since the daytime show called him out of “good intentions.”
“Khun Thanathorn didn’t just criticize, he berated the Nation. This was even though we reached out to him for an interview after we found out that the clip was doctored,” Kanok said. “Khun Thanathorn wasn’t prudent. He didn’t measure the timing of his words. … He should have asked, does P’Kanok of Khao Kon show know that it’s doctored?”
The financially distressed Nation Multimedia, which owns English-language The Nation newspaper, was acquired last year by a news agency with an ultraconservative editorial slant.
Former Nation owner Sutthichai Yoon, a fixture on social media, said the station acted irresponsibly.
“If you just say, ‘Look, I found this thing but I don’t know if it’s real or not, you can decide for yourself,’ then you’re not doing your job as the media. There’s no need to have the media now because the media’s job is to filter information,” Sutthichai said in an interview posted online. “How can you demand the right to be press if you do not filter and cross-check?”
Thought it seems no attempt was made to reach out to Thanathorn before the fake audio was broadcast, Kanok maintains it was an inadvertent error.
“I only aired it because it’s popular. I didn’t say, ‘Doesn’t that sound like Thanathorn? Doesn’t that sound like Thaksin? Isn’t this about teenagers being tricked easily?’ I said none of that,” Kanok said.
“Try and think a little bit, Thanathorn and Future Forward disciples. Why would our show knowingly air a doctored clip?” Kanok said.