Friday, April 24, 2009

Silencing the Red Shirts

*All Photos Copyright*
A Red Shirt's hand-drawn flag emblazoned with Democracy Monument at Government House 24 Feb 2009.

From Reporters Without Borders titled 'State of emergency used to censor pro-opposition media':

Reporters Without Borders deplores the censorship, closure and banning of many media linked to the opposition United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) since the UDD’s violent “red-shirt” demonstrations in Bangkok on 13 April.

The authorities have raided community radio stations in the north and east of the country under a state of emergency. And Internet Service Providers have been ordered to censor at least 67 websites linked to the UDD, which supports former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Not only is cutting off 'Red Shirt' media trespassing upon the fundamentally democratic terrain of freedom of speech but will prove to further radicalize the Red-Yellow divide and increase the likelihood of violence.

The majority of mainstream Thai media is either owned, controlled, or subservient to the Government and the interests of the wealthy, largely Bangkok based, establishment.

And their dominant theme lately has been the vilification of the Red Shirts.

Such one-sided reporting only serves to perpetuate an inaccurate and bigoted view that the Red Shirts are just an uneducated simpleminded mob of Thaksin stooges looking for a quick cash hand out.

While this view of the Red Shirts will bolster certain sectors self-justification for their own positions of power and privilege it also has the potential to move towards inciting hatred.

Instead of reporting on the grievances that the Red Shirts have with economic inequalities, democratic disenfranchisement, elite bigotry, Bangkok centrism, or even reporting on the wider demographics of what is actually a diverse movement the media perpetuates the simple view of Red Shirts as Thaksin following uneducated thugs.

This is a dangerous path that not only polarizes the opposing side by failing to empathize and understand the opposition but it is a slippery slope towards vilifying and dehumanizing.

Similar to the crescendo of right-wing nationalist hatred that fueled the massacre of students at Thammasat University in 1976, there is the potential for the one-sided media to cultivate a climate of dangerous intolerance.

Eventually, the genuine problems that have fueled this national Red vs. Yellow issue need to be debated in the media/public and diversity of opinion needs to be freed so that solutions and compromises can be found.

But if the Thai media keeps voicing the same old self-serving beliefs that provides the foundation for inequality and intolerance then they will not only increase the divide that is paralyzing the country but they will foster a climate of hatred, fear, and ultimately of violence.

Red Guars anyone?

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