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Pattaya Daily News

14 July 2009 :: 21:07:34 pm 1388

Local Media Restricted by Unfair Censorship

On Friday 10th July, PDN published the tragic story of the English schoolboy who drowned at a Pattaya water park under the headline ENGLISH BOY FOUND DEAD AT PATTAYA HOTEL WATER PARK.
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As Editor of PDN, I am on call 24 hours a day to receive information and update our news reports on a continual basis. In addition to this, I have to answer questions put to me via telephone calls and emails from around the world, no matter what time of day or night.

I consider it an integral part of my job to make sure, to the best of my ability, that any related information, both given and received, is correct irrespective of whether the news involves a Thai or foreigner as you can see in the report published by PDN on 27th June 2009 under the headline, 11 YEAR OLD BOY DROWNS IN PATTAYA SEA.

In our news articles, I do not favour one nationality over another. I feel equally sad for the relatives and friends of all the victims I have to write about. It is an unfortunate fact that we, the local media, are controlled by so many external constraints, including the police, politicians, concerned business owners and our own culture.

As a case in point, we had received information from reliable sources that the boy who died at the water park had been searching for his goggles, but we were instructed not to publish this. WHY? Why were we prevented from publishing all the facts, while the national British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, published the full account of the story, and even mentioned the goggles in their headline – BOY DROWNS IN THAI SWIMMING POOL LOOKING FOR HIS GOGGLES

I re-produce the DT version of the story here:

Boy, 14, drowns in Thai swimming pool looking for his goggles A British teenager, Nathan Clarke, has drowned after being sucked into the pumping system of a swimming pool at a Thai resort while looking for his lost goggles.

The 14-year-old was found dead inside the pump room of the outdoor whirlpool at the Pattaya Water Park. Witnesses said he could be seen lifting a 4ft square grille at the bottom of the pool before disappearing into the powerful pumping system below.

The distraught family of the teenager claimed it was 30 minutes before the pump room was checked at the resort, which is 85 miles east of Bangkok.Mr Clark, a tunnel engineer, is reported to have said: “The guards did nothing, not for 30 minutes. “He said they would not believe what happened. “They opened a hatch and my son’s body came out,” he said. It was also reported that Thai cameramen who had gathered at the scene tried to film the teenager’s body on the floor of the pump room.

Mr Clark, who works for international tunnel construction firm Robbins, said: “’I was distraught with what had happened. When I saw the intrusive cameramen I lashed out”.

Nathan’s 15-year-old brother, Rhys, described the events on a blog. He wrote: “The lifeguard said we shouldn’t play jokes like this and dismissed us. My step mum was begging them to check the pipes. “They argued back saying it’s impossible as the grille was locked. After a full 30 minutes they agreed to check the pipes.“While they were checking, I went to the ticket booth to make an announcement as to whether anyone had seen him. I was coming down the stairs to the main pool when I heard my father shout ‘No!’ very loudly then my stepmother screaming. If anyone is to blame it should be me. I should have stopped my younger brother.”

Mr Clarke, his two sons and his Thai wife were visiting the water park before they relocated to New Delhi in India, where Mr Clark had been posted. The boys are thought to go to school on the Isle of Man.Thai police conducted a reconstruction of the accident at the weekend to discover how Nathan was able to open the grille. Park manager Khun Surapon said the family had been offered compensation but there were “unanswered questions”.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “Our consular people in Thailand are giving assistance at this tragic time for the family.”

I believe that the locally owned and operated television, radio and print should be reflective of and responsible to the diverse communities they serve and should be able to respond quickly to local emergencies. Instead, we are told to hold back and wait for the right time to publish, during which time the world media is free to publish at will without the controls under which we have to operate.

At the same time, the local media in Pattaya are fighting over just a small number of sources which, in turn, are controlled by only a handful of giant media conglomerates seeking to minimize competition and maximize corporate profits rather than maximize competition and variety, and promote the public interest.

I believe it is time for our local authorities to face up to the fact that we need to practice journalism which is informative with all the necessary details and is independent of the government and acts as a watchdog for the public. We also need to protect journalists who are determined to report the truth. [Pattaya Daily News]

Warina Punyawan

Reporter : Warina Punyawan   Photo : PDN staff   Category : Editorial

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