Thursday, 20 May 2010

News journalism and the new media

The events in Bangkok, and possibly elsewhere in Thailand are a tragedy. They are also a tragedy for the Thais alone. I personally would not claim to have enough of an understanding of Thai politics to comment, other than to say that there is clearly a tension between the prosperity around greater Bangkok and the relative poverty of the rural poor in the north and east of Thailand.

And I doubt if this is just a recent problem. When in 2006 we rode the ordinary second class green bus to Chiang Mai from Chiang Khong via Chiang Rai there were a lot of armed police checkpoints and identity card checks for the Thais on the bus, but not for the foreigners. This could have been because it was New year, or because there was a major international economic summit in Chiang Mai the following week. It doesn't matter, what matters is that there was something even then that caused the authorities to increase security.

However one lesson which was reinforced by yesterday's events was the power of the new media. Pictures posted to twitpic and facebook, updates from reporters blackberries and iphones, video uploaded to youtube, showing that in a country like Thailand, with relatively good infrastructure and a belief in democracy censorship really is no longer possible.

The other thing that was interesting was the number of professional journalists and news photographers embracing the new media to report on events as they unfolded - journalism is not dead, but the process of newsgathering has clearly changed.

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