Media must be 'the voice of reason'
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Media must be 'the voice of reason'

A seminar titled 'Redefining Public Media Values' urged media to bring rational discussion to counter political bigotry.
A seminar titled 'Redefining Public Media Values' urged media to bring rational discussion to counter political bigotry.

The media can play an important role in providing a "voice of reason" to counter political bigotry and help voters make more informed decisions about which candidates to back in the general election next year, a seminar in Bangkok was told Thursday.

Veteran journalist Thepchai Yong said 7 million first-time voters are expected to cast their ballots in February, the month the already-delayed poll has been scheduled for.

Mr Thepchai said political parties will find ways of reaching out to them through platforms they are most comfortable with, ranging from radio and print news to social media.

However, he said the role played by public broadcasters is now more crucial than ever as less well-vetted media are clogged with "fake news and propaganda".

Public broadcasters have an obligation to provide the "voice of reason that enlightens and can be trusted. Those that are free from commercial interest and the government's influence will be able to provide [this] to counter political bigotry, especially during the election," he said.

Mr Thepchai made the remarks at a seminar titled "Redefining Public Media Values" that was co-organised by the Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS), Input and the Goethe Institute.

Former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, the keynote speaker, said that when the freedom of the press is threatened its role as a check on power gets undermined, making it more important for the public media, opposition parties, an impartial judiciary, civil society and members of the public to step up.

He said the growing digitalisation of society has helped to democratise the means of media production, which yields many advantages, but at the same time people are losing faith in the news presented to them due to a wealth of disinformation and fake news.

"Public broadcasting needs to serve the public interest, providing unbiased information and enjoying independence," Mr Anand said.

If the media is manipulated in order to undermine the election process, the public will lose trust in the government and democratic values, he warned.

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