For the Global Thinker

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bias CNN Coverage of Thai Protests...Are you surprised?

Recently I received a letter complaining about CNN's biased coverage of the Thailand protests. Basically the writer said that she was appalled at CNN's lack of objectivity and included various sources supporting the fact that CNN was biased. I read the letter (which you can also read at the end of the post) and here is my response....

Interesting letter; however, I think anyone who relies on CNN as an unbiased source of news should have their head examined. That goes for almost any of the network news. There are three inherent bias in network news.

Firstly, there is, of course, the fact that CNN is owned by a corporation and that makes it a business. Consequently, one of their main goals is to attract as many viewers as possible. To do this, of course, they're going to sensationalize the news and make it seem more shocking than it actually is. Consider the headline that ran during latter part of protests "Crackdown in Thailand."
The word "crackdown" is a strong word and is associated with many negative connotations. For example, traditionally in the media you hear: "there is a government crackdown on..." or "police are cracking down on...", "Schools are cracking down on..."etc. So when you hear the word 'crackdown' you immediately associate it with some sort of evil authority figure. You will never see the headline, "Pope Cracks Down on Pedophile Priests," for example.

Secondly, there is an inherent "underdog" bias in almost all journalists. They are continually rooting for the underdog which comes from years of journalism college professors telling them that they are the "watchdogs" of the government and the unofficial "voice" of the people. Ask any journalist why they became a journalist and they will invariably answer "because I wanted to affect change." So that being said if you're a journalist who's rooting for the underdog and wanting to affect change...which side of the Thai protest are you going to choose---the Red Shirts or the Thai government? The answer is obvious.

Furthermore, no journalist has forgotten the Tiannemen Square Massacre. That was journalism "gold," remember the picture of the lone protester standing in front of the row of tanks...priceless. That's the story every journalist wants to cover and so instead of being objective in the Thai protests, almost every journalist was running around seeking their "Tiannemen Square" moment.

Lastly, journalists like to weave narrative themes into their news stories because people are familiar with them. Themes like good vs evil, rich vs poor or the hero who saved the day against all odds. The problem is-- that news stories are never that simple. They are almost always very complicated with a host of savory and unsavory characters with all sorts of personal agendas and motives. These narrative themes, however, make it easier for the public to consume the news--- and remember that is the goal of network news ---to attract as many viewers as possible.

So, in this latest narrative in Thailand, we have the Red Shirts (poor and outnumbered therefore=good) and the government (rich, strong and well-armed therefore=bad). Network News has turned news into "bedtime stories" so that the viewer can follow the action from beginning until end. They don't want to confuse and bore the viewer with facts, subplots and mazes of motives and history. They want to simplify it and hand it to you in a nicely wrapped package for you to consume.

Anyway, I think its always OK to question news sources, but I'm afraid if you're getting all your news from CNN and you expect them to be unbiased and impartial, then you're in for giant letdown. Best solution:
Visit as many news sources as possible...my blog: http://ajarnmike.blogspot.com/ has many varied news links to check out...Cheers, Mike.

The Actual letter:

Open Letter to CNN International
Dear Sirs/Madams,

Recently, CNN Thailand Correspondents Dan Rivers and Sarah Snider have made me seriously reconsider your agency as a source for reliable and accurate unbiased news. As of this writing, over thousands of CNN’s viewers have already begun to question the accuracy and dependability of its reporting as regards events in Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Iran, etc., in addition to Bangkok.

As a first-rate global news agency, CNN has an inherent professional duty to deliver all sides of the truth to the global public who have faithfully and sincerely placed their trust and reliance in you. Your news network, by its longtime transnational presence and extensive reach, has been put in a position of trust and care; CNN’s journalists, reporters, and researchers have a collective responsibility to follow the journalist's code and ethics to deliver and present facts from all facets of the story, not merely one-sided, shallow and sensational half-truths. The magnitude of harm or potential extent of damage that erroneous and fallacious news reporting can cause to (and exacerbate), not only a country’s internal state of affairs, economic well-being, and general international perception, but also the real lives and livelihood of the innocent and voiceless people of that nation, is enormous. CNN should not negligently discard its duty of care to the international populace by reporting single-sided or unverified facts and distorted truths drawn from superficial research, or display/distribute biased images which capture only one side of the actual event.

Mr. Rivers and Ms. Snider have NOT done their best under these life-threatening circumstances because many other foreign correspondents have done better. All of Mr. Rivers and Ms. Sniders' quotes and statements seem to have been solely taken from the anti-government protest leaders or their followers/sympathizers. Yet, all details about the government’s position have come from secondary resources. No direct interviews with government officials have been shown; no interviews or witness statements from ordinary Bangkok residents or civilians unaffiliated with the protesters, particularly those who have been harassed by or suffered at the hands of the protesters, have been circulated.

Why the discrepancy in source of information? Why the failure to report all of the government’s previous numerous attempts to negotiate or invitations for protesters to go home? Why no broadcasts shown of the myriad ways the red protesters have terrorized and harmed innocent civilians by burning their shops, enclosing burning tyres around apartment buildings, shooting glass marbles at civilians from high altitudes, attacking civilians in their cars, and worst of all, obstructing paramedics and ambulances carrying civilians injured by M79 grenade blasts during the Silom incident of April 24, 2010, thereby resulting in the sole civilian casualty? The entire timeline of events that have forced the government to take this difficult stance has been hugely and callously ignored in deference to the red ‘underdogs’.

Mr. Rivers and Ms. Snider’s choice of sensational vocabulary and terminology in every newscast or news report, and choice of images to broadcast, has resulted in law-abiding soldiers and the heavily-pressured Thai government being painted in a negative, harsh, and oppressive light, whereas the genuinely violent and law-breaking arm of the anti-government protesters - who are directly responsible for overt acts of aggression not only against armed soldiers but also against helpless, unarmed civilians and law-abiding apolitical residents of this once blooming metropolis (and whose actions under American law would by now be classified as terrorist activities) – are portrayed as righteous freedom fighters deserving of worldwide sympathy and support. This has mislead the various international Human Rights watchdogs to believe the Thai government are sending trigger-happy soldiers out to ruthlessly murder unarmed civilians without just cause.

As a current resident of "war zone" Bangkok who has experienced the effect of the Red protests first hand and is living in a state of constant terror and anxiety as to whether her family, friends, and home would get bombed or attacked by the hardcore anti-government vigilantes/paramilitary forces - I appeal to CNN's professional integrity to critically investigate and scrutinize the misinformed news reporting of your above-named correspondents. If they are incapable of obtaining genuine, authentic facts from any other source except the Red Protest leaders and red-sympathizing Thai translators or acquaintances, or from fellow non-Thai-speaking journalists who are similarly ignorant of Thai language, culture, history, and society, then perhaps CNN should consider reassigning field correspondents to Thailand.

I implore and urge you to please take serious action to correct or reverse the grave injustice that has been done to the Thai nation, her government, and the majority of law-abiding Thai citizens and expatriate residents by having endorsed and widely circulated poorly researched and misrepresented news coverage of the current ongoing political unrest and escalating violence in Thailand.

Copies of this open letter have also been distributed to other local as well as international news media and social networks for public information. Please feel free to contact me further should you require any additional concrete and reputable evidence in substantiation and corroboration of my complaints and claims stated hereinabove.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully,

Napas Na Pombejra, B.A., LL.B. (Lond.)
Bangkok, Thailand
May 17, 2010


Enclosed herewith for your attention and information some examples of other quality international news bulletins by respectable foreign journalists so you may assess at your leisure the sub-par quality and misleading nature of Mr. Rivers and Ms. Sniders' journalism:

1. New York Times:
2. Fox News/Associated Press:
(ii) http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/05/17/thai-red-shirt-general-dies-chaos-continues/
3. Global Post: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/thailand/100514/thailand-protests-bangkok
4. NHK: http://www.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/17_15.html
5. Al Jazeera: http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/listeningpost/2010/04/2010423171540981286.html
6. Deutsche Welle (English media in Germany):
7. Local English daily newspaper’s chronology of events on Day 3 of “War in Bangkok”:

Youtube Videos, images, articles showing what CNN has failed to circulate:

2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rGqZDvRa_U
3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3tfBBSVJdU&feature=player_embedded
4. http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=4hmSPbugDAA&feature=related
7. http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=Aws3ZMXzNjs&feature=related
8. http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=giuEOQ62n6E&feature=related
9. http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=yy3a73Y6fBg&feature=related
10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLuffqnszIY
11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqnXV2ltUlE
12. http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=LXMmQReCKVg&feature=related
13. http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=FWN7zYV7_Bo&feature=related
14. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=005jYjmEAVE
15. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioOrreuQ94c
16. http://tweetphoto.com/22647514
17. http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/37395/put-an-end-to-this-rebellion?awesm=fbshare.me_AMdZh
18. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=333752&id=118996168116475
19. http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=El-zPySi9cQ&feature=related
20. http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=KzcVcHokaVM&feature=related
21. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agLBIWDKWkI
22. http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=34hSEPOC71g&feature=related
23. http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=kuAQyc5d1HY&feature=related
24. http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=Pv9Hpfb6gNE&feature=related
25. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7yAVunxw1g&feature=player_embedded
26. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=328250&o=all&op=1&view=all&subj=122351831122683&aid=-1&id=1785951766
27. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=5959829&o=all&op=1&view=all&subj=122351831122683&aid=-1&id=506055218
28. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=5960844&o=all&op=1&view=all&subj=122351831122683&aid=-1&id=506055218
29. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8684405.stm
30. http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=428905841067&ref=mf

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