Andrew Drummond

Pattaya Journalist Banned From Covering Criminal Trials Blog

This is a blog entry only
Andrew Drummond, Bangkok, February 13 2009
Now and again a little gem comes up on the net that’s worth giving a little further attention.
And this one has actually been lurking up there for two years but I
only came across it recently on when I was checking from
interested parties, whether those arrested for murders of foreigners 
and vice-versa had actually made it to court.  (Yes, there is no point
in checking newspapers in Thailand)
It’s a post from that fine and upstanding Essex chappie Howard
Miller, ‘Managing Editor’ of Pattaya City News (now Pattaya One News)
and a black clad Tourist Police Volunteer Group Leader, (unkindly
referred to by one Thaivisa poster by the accurate German translation of
his title,  ‘Gruppenfuhrer’). His news operation regular comes in for
stick from foreigners down in Pattaya for treating local police
statements in the same way others might treat the Bible or Koran.
In his reply to criticisms that viewers are never told what happens
to all those foreigners and Thais after they are arrested he announces
that his journalists are in affect banned from the court!
Howard Miller:’I have been asked about this on a number of ocassions.
On major stories such as this one ( murder – this was a story about a
Thai mia noi who ordered the killing of her New Zealand boyfriend. AD),
we are easily able to follow-up to it’s conclusion. However on some of
the other cases (drugs, assault, immigration arresting foreigners and
other minor crimes), the cases are sent to the court. We are not given
access to the court. Please come to your own conclusions as to why we
are not allowed to asign a reporter to the courthouse. PCN has been
operating now for nearly 4 years and this constantly annoys me.
Basically we can’t finish off the story and this frustration filters
through to the reader on many occasions. Trust me on this one….I share
your frustration but this situation will never change unfortunately’.
Just for a bit of colour on the subject of accuracy he goes on:
‘ Well, all I can say is PCN is guilty of ommiting some detail from a
story some times, but I am confident that the information we give on a
story is accurate to the best of our abilities. We must be doing
something right because we sell our stories to Channel 3, Channel 7,
Channel 9(MCOT) and ITV along with printed media, Matishon and Daily
News national newspapers, on a daily basis. All are major national Thai
TV stations and national newspapers in Thai language. We also deal with
Reuters and other International news organisations when a major story
breaks. This is in no way a ‘guarantee’ that every piece of information
is accurate, but even the ‘Big Boys’ get it wrong sometimes, that is the
nature of the job and is partly due to the pressures on us to get a
story released as soon as possible. Other local news organisations do
not have such contacts and for this, I am proud of every member of staff
who works for me for making PCN a truly international news
organisation. (sorry if it sounds like I am trying to sell PCN to you,
but I am saying what I really feel)’.
Miller’s admission is absolutely believable. (Though his belief only
minor crimes go to court is ‘out of court’ to so speak, unless murder is
less important than overstaying a visa).
 When I go down to Pattaya on criminal trials I am often the only
journalist there. Howard’s ‘international news’ boys go no further than
the police station. It’s not because they won’t – ‘they can’t’ he says.
The ‘Big Boys’- Reuters, APTV, and the Thai national channels do not
have the same problem and can and do go to the courts in Pattaya. But
not very often. The problem the ‘Big Boys’ have is trying to cover cases
which sit only one day a month, and during which witnesses, especially
police ones, frequently do not turn up.  Most organisations only go down
on the judgment on bigger cases. (So they get no defence).
For many years judges in Phuket have banned local journalists, who
are merely asked to print the judgment written by the judge. What Howard
Miller is effectively saying is that the authorites have the local
press fully in the bag. Its ‘pon prayote’ – for the benefit of all.
Anyway Howard Miller is not going to upset the ‘status quo’ and
defend the old chestnuts that ‘ law provides that justice should be seen
to be done’,  and ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.
But at least we now know from the horse’s mouth. And needless to say
his television news has not reported on the result of the New
Zealander’s murder,  or those ‘minor’ matters which go to court,
…or probably any result for that matter.
It probably also explains why the Pattaya Daily News lifted the pictures and result of the Maurice Prail case off this website.  No local press were at the court.
Anyway thanks for your honesty Howard. And if you want to know what
happened to the bailed mia noi who allegedly inherited 700,000 baht.
Ask a policeman!
Meanwhile I guess Howard Miller will have to do some soul searching.
His news is police-story led. The so called criminals are condemned at
police press conferences by  local stations such as Pattaya One and they
know that even if they are acquitted their names will not be cleared –
unless they get a copy of the judgment and take it to the local media
themselves. But an acquitall is never as good as the original story.
(edited Feb 17)

About the Author

Andrew Drummond

Andrew Drummond is a British independent journalist and occasional television documentary maker. He is a former Fleet Street, London, journalist having worked at the Evening Standard, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, News of the World, Observer and The Times.

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