Planet News Views

Monday, October 02, 2006

Free Press Necessary On Thailand's Road Back To Democracy

The media provide important information on government, those in power and those seeking power, and in so doing act to safeguard the survival of healthy democracy and stand in the way of threats to freedom

By Scott McLean

Thailand is setting out in a new direction, as the world watches with many hoping the destination is democracy. Following the September 19 coup in Bangkok, the military leaders suspended the constitution and declared martial law.

Less than two weeks later, Thailand has an interim prime minister and temporary constitution, as is widely reported by many credible news sources including the Bangkok Post. The world may feel as though Thailand is headed back in the right direction, although it's still too early to breathe a sigh of relief as elections reportedly will not be held until 2007, and it's difficult to assess how the media will be treated.

Freedom of the press is important to safeguard the survival of healthy democracy, and in this case necessary to moving the politics of Thailand back in that direction.

In the United States, the Fourth Estate (the media) is considered essential for the preservation of democracy. After all, who are the people going to turn to in the event that the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government are corrupt or violate the rights of the people!

In a healthy democracy government criticism by the media is to be expected-- and it is welcomed. Without scrutiny of government, protection of the other parts of a constitution become problematic.

At times the media deserve to be criticized for publishing or broadcasting conjecture posing as facts. But without the media, all we really have are guesses about what's going on where the political decisions are being made, and no way to head off an attack on democracy. With this in mind, it's important for these media to go beyond reporting basic facts and get at 'why' and 'how' a political event occurred.

Numerous theories exist on why major events in history happened. Thailand's military coup similarly has received thoughtful analysis. One of the leaders in critical thinking is the blog Bangkok Pundit. In a recent post, the blog examines one possible scenario leading up to the coup. The blog is both popular and getting the recognition it deserves.


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