Statement by the Bangkok Post
This story is riddled with flaws and is simply malicious innuendo. We have taken the time to provide the facts on many paragraphs of this so-called story.
It is quite clear that there is no factual basis to many of the claims made by the writer and that he is simply taking the opportunity to malign the Bangkok Post while using the CJR as his hapless soapbox.
To make an analogy - if a cadet reporter joined the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, left after six months on the job without any proper notice, and then submitted a libelous article about his trials and tribulations, would the CJR be so quick to publish without verifying any of the allegations made in the article?
What amazes us is that the editors of the CJR did not make any effort to contact us to verify this story. To obtain comment, they instead relied solely on the writer, who was going to write a story against this newspaper.If this is the standard to which the CJR adheres, then I believe the CJR's Board of Overseers needs to be made aware of the dismal state of how the CJR operates.
The CJR should retract this story and issue an official apology to the Bangkok Post, Mr. Heifetz’s former colleagues at the newspaper and indeed, to the Thai media, many of whom do in fact take considerable risk in the performance of their professional duties.
Failing that the CJR should publish our response unedited and not as suggested by the CJR: "We'd like to get to the bottom of this, and if a correction or clarification is needed, we're glad to get Justin to write one. Please let me know about the fact issues in writing as soon as you can."
Editor, The Bangkok Post
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Bangkok Post has issued a sharp critique of this story, disputing many of its assertions. As a result, CJR conducted a broad review of Justin Heifetz’s piece, a process that has involved conversations with more than a dozen journalists and legal experts in Thailand and elsewhere, as well as with Heifetz.
We have determined that there are several errors of fact that require correction. In the opening anecdote, about testing bulletproof vests on a pig carcass, Heifetz wrote: “I didn’t want to shoot a slaughtered animal, but I had no choice.” Heifetz now says that shooting the pig was a decision he made, and that his editor did not force him.
Heifetz wrote that the Bangkok Post is the “largest circulating English-language daily in Southeast Asia.” This is incorrect. Heifetz stated that “Thai law prohibits local media outlets from hiring non-national reporters.”
There is no law categorically prohibiting foreigners from being hired as reporters (as opposed to editors), though in practice it’s rarely done. Additionally, Heifetz’s statement that “all defamation charges in Thailand are criminal” is incorrect.
Thai law contains penalties for civil as well as criminal defamation, and any charge of defamation can be brought under either civil or criminal law, at the plaintiff’s option. In some cases, the facts are harder to judge.
Heifetz wrote that he “clashed” with another Bangkok Post reporter, Wassana Nanuam. Heifetz now says that he and Wassana “never spoke nor saw each other.” His use of the word “clashed,” while misleading, reflects his view that there was tension between the two resulting from an incident in the newsroom.
This story was written in the first person, and represents Heifetz’s personal opinion and experience while he was an employee of the Bangkok Post. The events he describes are open to multiple interpretations, and it is not surprising that they have provoked strenuous disagreement.
Before publication, Heifetz contacted the managing editor of the Bangkok Post, Chiratas Nivatpumin, seeking his response to many of the points that the Post has since disputed. Chiratas chose not to answer the specific claims in Heifetz’ piece, instead responding in an email that “the Post has a different recollection and perspective of the events in question,” which CJR included in the piece.
Heifetz also suggested that Chiratas forward his request for comment to reporter Wassana Nanuam, for whom Heifetz said he lacked contact information. It is unclear whether that was ever done. In an attempt to emphasize that this piece represents Heifetz’s opinion, we have also changed the headline.
While CJR’s review did surface factual errors, none of them challenged the general thrust of Heifetz’s narrative or perspective on his time at the Bangkok Post.
|Wassana in Hawaii - checking out old subs for the Thai Navy?|
|Aircraft carrier is Thai only tourist attraction|
But Thailand does not really work like this – as Heifezt wrote: “The paper’s then-deputy editor forced me to apologize to the rear admiral by phone; when I asked her why, she said she didn’t have the time to read my article, and that it must be done. When I called the rear admiral with my section editor, the admiral said that I could never understand what I had done wrong, because I was a foreigner.”
I love it when editors go at each other. It reminds me of the old spats between Andrew Neil of the Sunday Times and Donald Trelford at the Observer many moons ago. Both of whom seemed, I recall, to like Asian 'totty'.