MCOT denies firing Orawan
Anchor swap led to 'misunderstanding'
Doubts over the fate of news anchor Orawan Choodee continue to linger, even after state-owned broadcaster, MCOT Plc, denied pulling her off the air for asking questions that cornered Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his military-backed government during an election debate programme.
In a statement released late on Saturday evening, MCOT president Kematat Paladesh dismissed reports that Ms Orawan was removed from the programme as "misleading", and said Orawan and veteran journalist Veera Theeraphat will continue to host the programme, which airs every Thursday night.
"The present hosts will resume their debate show duties until March 14, they will host another show on election day," Mr Kematat said.
"This Thursday's show -- which will focus on the issue of state-welfare -- will feature a different line-up because the show's producers believe the moderator needs to have a sound knowledge of economic issues," said the MCOT president.
"However, the change unfortunately led to the misunderstanding."
Parichart Sthapitanonda, an MCOT board member and dean of Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Communication Arts, also said on her Facebook page that the board did not order the removal of Orawan.
"I have always adhered to journalistic ethics," Mr Kematat stressed.
"Our news unit has full freedom, and the MCOT's management never interferes in its operations."
But despite his clarification, criticisms that have been rolling in since Saturday's show no signs of stopping.
"How relevant are these questions to the elections?" asked Boonradom Chitradon, veteran reporter on the Government House beat who is also an MCOT radio host, on her Facebook page.
"Why did they ask these questions? If Gen Prayut is not cheered, he'll be attacked."
Young voters gave massive thumbs-down to policies of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in last Thursday's 'Election War '62' (above) but MCOT executives deny that was the reason for removal of the show's moderator Orawan Choodee.
During Ms Orawan's election debate show, new candidates contesting the March 24 election and 100 university students who have never voted before, were asked to raise "like" or "dislike" signs on controversial issues.
The audience and candidates were asked to indicate whether they agree or disagree with issues such as Gen Prayut's refusal to participate in election debates, the role of senators in selecting Thailand's next prime minister, and the 20-year national strategy, which have attracted controversy in their time.
Some observers alleged the issues highlighted were deliberately picked to pressure Gen Prayut and the military regime.