The Thailand-based correspondents of CNN and BBC on Thursday night defended their work as impartial against relentless criticism in recent weeks by some sections of the Thai media and society that they were biased in favour of the red shirts.
CNN’s Dan Rivers issued a brief statement, which was read out at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT), stating that “rumours about our reporting have taken over from the facts of our coverage”.
“Since April 9th, we have carried live interviews with members of the Democrat Party on 15 separate occasions. On the day of the crackdown, we had seven interviews with government officials.
“Some sections of the Thai media have tried to suggest we deliberately held back video of black-shirt men. The truth is more prosaic – we ran the footage as soon as we obtained it.
“I have also been accused of saying the red shirts weren’t armed. In fact, the day before the crackdown, we ran a report showing men in black firing automatic weapons on April 10. I was asked in one live cross, whether I had seen these gunmen with my own eyes, to which my response was ‘No’, but I stressed that local media were reporting there were armed elements among the protesters and repeated the government’s claim there were 500 armed militia among the red-shirt protesters. But my subsequent explanation has been forgotten. Instead the Tweets and Facebook pages give the impression that CNN said all red shirts were unarmed. That’s simply not true.”
BBC’s Bangkok correspondent Rachael Harvy was at the club and said allegations against her were simply “very general” and “quite nasty”. She added that she and the BBC would welcome any specific complaint and there existed a proper complaint procedure at the BBC.
Informal complaint can also be pursued by simply switching on the channel, she said.
Rivers reiterated in the statement that CNN will continue to reflect both viewpoints in the conflict.
The remarks were made during a panel meeting at the FCCT where clips of the May crackdown were shown. Many who took part in covering the events said they doubted if there were as many armed men in black as the government claimed.