from Activist Post:
Political developments are often emotionally charged, and even journalists who are expected to maintain an objective approach to reporting can find themselves swept away by sensational headlines and the temptation to wade into controversy without fully analysing background information that might significantly alter established narratives.
Because of this, some journalists find themselves playing the role of commentator rather than investigator, often leaving out critical information in a rush to contribute to one of two sides amid a political divide. In some cases, journalists may appear to be doing their job by “investigating” deeper into news stories, but do so in a transparently one-sided manner, thus negating their role as an objective observer.
In Thailand, this can be clearly seen in English-language coverage, particularly from The Nation and the Bangkok Post. In the rare instance that journalists from either paper “investigates” independently into any given headline, it is generally one-sided and transparently politically-motivated.
And more often than not, these papers appear to be taking their lead from foreign news sources, particularly those in Europe and North America. One would expect newspapers from region to region to develop their own unique angles and perspectives regarding the news, but upon following the money, we will soon see why this more often than not doesn’t happen.
The Industrialised Journalist Mill
Pravit Rojanaphruk, currently a commentator at Thailand’s Khoasod English, is perhaps one of the most transparent examples of just what is wrong with newspapers across Asia. He proudly boasts of his various Western media affiliations and fellowships with his Twitter profile reading as follows:
MSc (Oxon), British Chevening Scholar 2001-2002, Reuter Fellow 97-98, Katherine Fanning Fellow 2009, Salzburg Sem. Fellow.
If these scholarships and fellowships actually cultivated real principles of journalism within recipients, they might actually be noteworthy milestones in a journalist’s career.
However, what they instead represent, is a concerted attempt by the Western media to extend its influence further abroad, and to help align global news coverage uniformly to their perspective and to serve their interests.
Journalists like Pravit, then, serve as an extension of Western media coverage rather than a representation of Thai journalism. Journalism by definition is the reporting of news, and news is by definition noteworthy information.
What Pravit and others like him are prone to do, however, is interweave opinion and commentary into what is often strained, spun or even fabricated information. And this is done to align Thai news with those expectations and norms taught to them during their fellowships abroad in Europe and North America.
The Reuters Journalism Fellowship Programme alone has processed hundreds of journalists around the world, putting them through between 1-3 terms at the University of Oxford to undergo a program of stringent indoctrination into the ways of Western journalism. It is virtually impossible for a fellow to undergo this process and leave as an independent journalist.
Activities, according to the Reuters Institute’s own website include:
Attend seminars given by a diverse and high-level range of guest speakers who will share their insights into key industry trends and developments
Work with an experienced supervisor, usually an Oxford academic, to produce a research paper of publishable quality.
Visit world-class news organisations and gain insights into how they are approaching industry challenges. Previous visits have included trips to Thomson Reuters, The Financial Times, The BBC, The Economist and The Guardian.
Join trips to key UK cultural and political organisations and institutions. Previous destinations have included Oxfam, the House of Commons and Stratford-upon-Avon, home of Shakespeare.
Exchange ideas and experiences with a diverse and international peer group. Around 25 Fellows a year join us from high-level media organisations all over the world. Strengthen your network, develop a global set of contacts and gain insights into international trends and developments.
Benefit from the extensive learning facilities offered by the University of Oxford, including the world-famous Bodleian Library and access to various seminars and lectures across the university. You are also encouraged to engage with the university’s cutting edge specialist research facilities, including centres for African, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Eastern and Western European, Japanese and Chinese studies
Be given visiting scholar status of Green Templeton College.
For inexperienced young men and women who aspire to be journalists, to be afforded this opportunity would be both immensely flattering and emotionally as well as professionally transformative. For a young journalist in Thailand to be afforded the opportunity to travel to the UK, to attend one or more terms at the world renowned University of Oxford and to be given an opportunity to see the inner workings of news organisations like the BBC, Thompson Reuters, The Economist and The Guardian would be an overwhelming experience. And it is meant to be.
If Only Real Journalism Was Being Promoted…
The journalists who complete such fellowships and return to their home countries, are forever linked to the institutions and individuals they met and worked with during their time abroad. They take back with them to their home countries not the tools of an objective journalist, but the indoctrination, culture, interests and angles of a Western-centric worldview. To those who have completed the fellowship, they often confuse this Western-centric worldview with being “objective,” but it is most certainly not.
We can look at the Reuters fellowship program and see news organisations like Thompson Reuters, the BBC, The Economist and The Guardian held up as examples of journalism. This is despite their active manipulation of information toward particular political objectives rather than accurately informing the public.
In particular, these news services played crucial roles in promoting wars like the US-UK led invasion of Iraq in 2003, intentionally obfuscating critical information the public and policymakers required to make an honest assessment of the decision to go to war.
The BBC in particular has been embroiled in impropriety ranging from deceptive news coverage to paid-for documentaries and even criminal conduct committed by individuals, and covered up institutionally.
But news organisations serving special interests is nothing new. One must expect this realistically, to a certain degree, regarding any news organisation operating around the world. It is not a matter of whether or not they are serving special interests, it is a matter of whose interests they are serving.
While Thai-based news organisations would be expected to serve special interests in Thailand, they do not, specifically because of the Wests industrialised ‘journalist mills.’ These fellowship programs, training seminars and campaigns are undertaken to ensure the widest possible consensus globally to Western special interests, regardless of what nation journalists may be from or what nations they are currently operating in.
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