Code of Ethics
It emerged from interviews with media professionals and activists in Thailand that media accountability systems like the Press Council and journalist associations cannot be effective alone in a vacuum in the absence of awareness on the importance of self regulation among journalists and editors. Institutional changes are required to be initiated to make the Thai media accountable to the public. The media, highly sectarian and sensational at present, should realise the need of enforcing ethical practices through awareness and training of journalists and editors. Many mainstream media like the English language newspapers The Nation (English translation unavailable) and The Bangkok Post have journalistic codes of ethics on place, but there still remains a gap between theory and practice that needs to addressed.
The Press Council of Thailand, together with publishers, editors and reporters from the country’s independent media, deemed it necessary that the institution remain independent and self-regulated in line with democratic tradition and that a code of ethics be established to ensure professionalism, accountability, and responsibility. The Council supports freedom of expression and the idea that the public should be educated about the world in which they live through independent media. The Council holds the Institution of the Monarchy to be the highest social and political organ in the Kingdom. The following code of conducts was established by the executive board of the Press Council Thailand B.E. 2540 (1997).
Section I: General
Item 1: The following guidelines will from this point on be referred to as “the code of conduct for journalists, B.E. 2541 (1998)”
Item 2: That this code of conduct be put into effect on the day of the announcement.
Item 3: In this code of conduct, the word “news” refers to the printed text, headlines, photos and the caption that goes with the photos presented in the newspapers. “Newspaper” is defined by the Press Council of Thailand, B.E. 2540 (1997).
Section II: Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Newspapers
Item 4: Newspapers must hold the truth to be the highest.
Item 5: Newspapers must present news taking into consideration the benefit of the public, not of an individual.
Item 6: Newspapers must be fair to all parties mentioned in the news stories.
Item 7: Newspapers must not make up false stories.
Item 8: A newspaper must be neutral in its presentation with the understanding that bias reporting could results in a legal action taken against the party/parties mentioned in the article.
Item 9: Newspapers must refrain from putting the opinion of the individual reporter in the news article.
Item 10: Newspapers must make references to the source regardless if the information is obtained from a printed text or an individual.
Item 11: When making references that could damage the reputation of an individual, newspapers must give that party the opportunity to state his case.
Item 12: In cases where an error has been committed, newspapers must issue a correction as soon as possible.
Item 13: Newspaper must not present news in such a way that the source of the stories could be revealed.
Item 14: Newspapers must ensure that confidentiality of the source and take into the consideration that the well being of the source could be at stake if the identity of that source is revealed.
Item 15: Newspapers must take into consideration the humanitarian principle and the dignity of an individual person when he or she is being presented in photo or mentioned in news story.
Item 16: Headlines must not be exaggerated to the point that they distort the truth or the news story.
Item 17: Newspapers must use their judgement when presenting photographs that may be violent or pornographic in nature.
Item 18: Newspapers must be just when making references to any party in its editorial or analysis.
Item 19: Advertisements in the newspaper must be presented as paid advertising and not as a news story.
Section III: Code of Ethics for Reporters
Item 20: Journalists must not violate the integrity of the institution of the independent media and the profession in which he or she works.
Item 21: Journalists must not abuse his/her position or make use of the profession in such ways that would result in obtaining favours.
Item 22: Journalists are prohibited from taking bribes or accepting valuable gifts or favours from sources because it could influence directly or indirectly the content of news reporting.
Item 23: Journalists must not accept any privilege or position that will influence their professional performance in disseminating correct and comprehensive information.
Item 24: When presenting a news report, newspapers must take into consideration the welfare and the benefit of the general public.
Item 25: Newspapers must obtain information in a dignified manner.
Item 26: Newspapers must not have a hidden motive when expressing opinion or news analysis.
Item 27: Newspapers must take into consideration the rights of an individual and balance it with the public’s right to know.
Item 28: Newspapers must not allow paid advertisements to violate the established code of ethics of their industry and take into consideration the customs and values of the Kingdom.
Item 29: Newspapers must avoid paid advertisements that knowingly distribute false information to the public.
Item 30: Newspapers must not use profanity and avoid obscene gestures in their reporting.
1. Promote and maintain freedom of expression and news reporting.
2. Provide only accurate news information and arrange to correct those found to be inaccurate.
3. Be polite and honest in discharging function, especially in obtaining documents, photographs and other informative materials useful for news reports.
4. Respect the confidentiality of news sources.
5. Perform duties for the greatest benefit of the public and restrain from seeking self-gain and from being an instrument of any group of people.
6. Refrain from any act that may be damaging to the profession's integrity and image.
(The eight basic rules of the English language daily published in Bangkok)
Recalling the traditional basic role of the newspaper to inform, influence, entertain the reading public, to foster the development of the nation's economy as well as its political well-being, and above all to serve the people at large and help ensure their better lives, the Bangkok Post determines to operate under the following cardinal principles:
1. To search for the truth in its reporting on local, national and international issues in order to provoke understanding and expand knowledge.
2. To remain fair, honest and impartial in the representation of news and opinions, giving all sides an opportunity to be heard and correcting all distortions.
3. To stay free and independent of individuals, parties or any particular interest group.
4. To strive for national advancement in political, economic, social and cultural fields.
5. To avoid all forms of sensationalism and favouritism.
6. To ensure that national interest prevails over factionalism.
7. To observe the strict confidentiality of sources of information.
8. To uphold and respect the constitutional monarchy of Thailand.
As noted from above, the existing codes of ethics fall short in terms of protecting the interests of women and children in their coverage. Media activists have stressed the need of addressing this issue since the privacy of women and children is often violated by the mainstream media. At the Mekong Media Forum held in 2009 at Chiang Mai in Thailand, attention was also drawn to the prevalent practice of using derogatory adjectives to describe elderly women and the practice of irrelevant mention of women’s personal details in news reports, especially in the print media. The existing codes should also be revised and made in-depth. Some of the clauses like Item 20, Section III of that of National Press Council of Thailand should be clarified. Regarding the clause on upholding the constitutional monarchy (of the code of ethics of Thai Journalists Association) there needs to be debate regarding creating space for just evaluation of the monarchy. Thai Public Broadcasting Service (TPBS), which came into existence as a result of the Thai Public Broadcasting Service Act of 2008, has a more detailed code of conduct, compared to the rest (complete English translation unavailable) with clear guidelines on protecting the privacy of women and children, on the protection of sources, and the ethics of accessing information, as understood from an interview with Sopit Wangvivatana, manager of Executive office of TPBS. Media activists also pointed out that efforts should be also directed towards including diverse perspectives in news reports, including that of women and other minority groups. These principles can help uphold the journalistic ethics of fairness and objectivity. The need of reining overt expression of nationalistic ideologies in favour of more balanced and accurate information and reportage have also been emphasised in the coverage of cross border conflicts with countries like Cambodia. Besides, taking into account the growing importance of the online medium, efforts should be directed in establishing a separate Code of Ethics for Internet users. Supinya Klangnarong of CPMR said that self-regulation is especially required in discussions related to child pornography, race and ethnicity, human trafficking and accuracy of information.Back to top