Media self-regulation ‘can be effective’

Published July 17, 2017 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

politics July 09, 2017 01:00


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WESTERN COUNTRIES with press freedom and corruption-free societies are living proof that the self-regulation of media can be effective, an international seminar on self-regulation has heard.

The heads of media regulatory organisations from Sweden, Australia, Indonesia and Myanmar shared their experiences at the seminar last week, which was organised to mark the 20th anniversary of the Thai National Press Council (NPC), as well as the start of self-regulation in Thailand.

In Thailand, however, there has been an attempt to control the media through proposed legislation to introduce a professional media council with the authority to severely penalise practitioners – a contradiction of the self-regulation adopted elsewhere.

Members of the Thai public have shown support for such a repressive move.

Press ombudsman Ola Sigvardsson from Sweden, which is ranked among the world’s top practitioners of press freedom, said that self-regulation had been around in his country for more than 100 years, proving that the practice works.

Unlike in Thailand, where a lot of people do not have trust in the media, there was a strong consensus in Swedish society, including among politicians, that self-regulation helped ensure “ethical consciousness” in the media industry, Sigvardsson said.

The Swedish press ombudsman said that almost everything was allowed to print in his country, however personal privacy is protected and incitement to hate crimes is not permitted.

The country took reader complaints seriously, he said. When a complaint was received, the ombudsman would try to help the conflicting parties reach a settlement by allowing the newspaper to defend itself and the complainant to reply, he added.

If the newspaper were found guilty, it would be fined by the press council or face legal action brought about by the complainant, Sigvardsson explained.

The Swedish ombudsman’s office received as many as 400 complaints every year, and this contributed to strengthening the self-regulation regime, Sigvardsson said.

Likewise in Australia, the press council was responsible for handling public complaints against the media and promoting media professional standards as well as freedom of expression.

David Weisbrot, chairman of the Australian Press Council, explained that the council had the responsibility to consider complaints and rectify issues involving the print media. In addition, the media was encouraged to publish readers’ complaints and concerns as well as cover matters of public interests, he said.

Each year, the council received more than 700 complaints from readers and it was able to resolve about 75 per cent of them, Weisbrot said.

Australian newspapers are required to publish the council’s judgements, which normally call for the media to apologise or take action to compensate complainants, Weisbrot said.

Thailand’s Asean neighbours Indonesia and Myanmar had a similar self-regulatory system and were serious about responding to audience complaints. In Indonesia, Ahmad Djauhar Tasan, vice chairman of the press council, said council resolutions were not legally binding, but they relied on social sanction in rectifying the situation.

Normally, it would give the conflicting parties an equal opportunity to defend or reply concerning complaints about press coverage. Tasan said that this was the most effective measure, but if it were not successful the council could also act as a mediator to help find a resolution.

The last resorts were legal action and social boycotts, he said.

In Myanmar, Aung Hla Tun, vice chairman of the press council, said that a self-regulatory system had been adopted recently when the country transitioned to democratic civilian rule.

The council, he said, was an independent organisation that helped readers and publishers reach agreement in cases of conflict.

He said that it received about300 complaints every year.

The council would review the complaints carefully and make sure responsible outlets respond to them.

Newspapers were asked to publish the council’s resolutions or apologise after the council has ruled on the case, he added.

Meanwhile in Thailand, Chavarong Limpattamapanee, head of the Thai NPC, said that the media is facing a number of challenges threatening self-regulation. Among them was legislation by the junta-appointed reform assembly, which proposed that state representatives sit on a professional council that would have the authority to penalise the media.

Chavarong said that media organisations were working to reform the industry in a bid to protect press freedom and maintain self-regulation.

In the latest amendment of the council’s charter, internal ombudsmen have been introduced. All media members should adopt the practice to ensure professional standards in their agencies, he said.

The NPC would make sure all outlets follow the rules, he said. However, he was also counting on members of the public to help improve the effectiveness of the self-regulation body.

Unlike the other countries, Chavarong said the Thai NPC received only 10 to 20 complaints each year. The council was looking to facilitate channels for audiences to voice their thoughts so the media can improve. These channels included mobile applications, he said.

The council was also trying to discuss with the government ways to overturn the controversial legislation, which is viewed as a critical threat to self-regulation and press freedom, he said.


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