Prayut gets prickly over ‘critical’ media coverage

‘DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO’: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha talks to the media at a polling station during a constitutional referendum vote in Bangkok last year.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed his displeasure over the media’s criticism of the government’s approach to ask TV stations to cover each minister during the mobile cabinet meeting in Nakhon Ratchasima.

“I do not expect anything from you anyway. I’ll let you do what you want,” Gen Prayut said. The premier was responding to Thepchai Yong, president of the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, who earlier said it is not the media’s duty to provide publicity for the government and each minister.

“I don’t know now who I’m working for today, whether I’m doing it for public and the country’s benefits,” he said while addressing a recent conference.

“You do not need to follow and interview me any more,” the premier said. He said he would continue talking to the public and did not care who would hate him.

On Tuesday, government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd, also the director-general of the government’s Public Relations Department (PRD), invited representatives from TV stations to a meeting where he asked each station to provide scoops on each minister’s activities during the trip and the scoops would be broadcasted through the state-run NBT station.

This drew criticism from several media personnel, who said the government is trying to influence the behaviour of the media.

National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) spokesman Winthai Suvaree yesterday defended Lt Gen Sansern’s move, saying the spokesman honestly wanted the work of each ministry during the mobile cabinet meeting to be relayed to the public.

He said he believed every party wants people to have access to useful and constructive information, not political jibes that could cause rifts in society.

Col Winthai said he wanted to apologise to the media, who believed the move is “bothering them”, saying media outlets can decide by themselves whether to cover the matters.

“The government spokesman’s office has come up with a plan to work with the media to relay information of ministries to the public. If media outlets consider this is inappropriate or perturbs their work, I may have to apologise to them,” Col Winthai said.

On the list provided by PRD, 16 TV channels have enlisted to do scoops on ministers joining the mobile cabinet trip. They are Channel 3, 5, 7, MCOT, Thai PBS, Channel 8, Mono 29, TNN, New 18 TV, True4U, One Channel, GMM 25, Nation TV, Thai Rath TV, NBT and NBT World.

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