Senior executives of Nation Multimedia Group, led by chairman Suthichai Yoon, yesterday pledged to fight for editorial freedom after reporting to the police in relation to a libel case filed by Solution Corner (1998), or SLC.
"With our 44 years of experience in the press, accuracy and freedom are the most important for us under the code of media ethics and the law. Hence, we pledge full co-operation with the officials to prove our innocence," Suthichai said yesterday.
The veteran journalist and other NMG executives met officers at Talat Phlu Police Station to acknowledge SLC's accusation against them.
SLC, which has been renamed News Network Corporation, on February 13 filed a police complaint, accusing Krungthep Turakij business daily and four NMG executives of defamation in connection with reports about SLC's acquisition of a 12.27-per-cent stake in NMG.
In addition to Suthichai, the NMG executives named in the complaint are chief executive officer Duangkamol Chotana, Krungthep Turakij publisher Chakkrish Permpool, and Bangkokbiznew.com editor Nitirad Boonyo.
Suthichai said yesterday that his company and editorial staff simply wanted to make sure that the new stakeholder was able to share the same vision and direction with NMG, particularly regarding media ethics. Not only did the company want to know the real reason behind SLC's acquisition, the Thai public also needed to know the answer, Suthichai added.
"What we have done and what we are doing now is to keep our freedom as well as protect the people's right to know," Suthichai stressed.
Supporting this idea, Pirongrong Ramasoota, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Communication Arts, said it was undeniable that the press was commercially run but freedom of the press was very important both for business and society.
Apart from Pirongrong who appeared at the police station, a number of representatives of a consumer group and civil society also expressed their support to NMG's executives.
Independent investor Panya Chattanrassamee and Chuchart Sugant, president of a coordinating centre for Bangkok's Consumer Council, said they were concerned that freedom of the press and people's right to know could be affected by a lack of diversity in ownership.
Unyaorn Panitpeungrat, president of the Family Media Watch Network, said on behalf of consumers that diversity in media was very important for the public to be informed about developments and get accurate information.
Unyaorn expressed her concern about hegemony in media after SCL took a big stake in NMG, which operates three major daily newspapers (The Nation, Krungthep Turakij and Kom Chad Luek), two digital terrestrial TV station (NOW 26 and Nation TV), two radio stations and a number of magazines and websites.
SLC's subsidiary owns a digital terrestrial channel called Spring News TV.
Under the broadcasting regulations of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to auction off operating licences for digital TV channels, each bidder was allowed to hold a maximum of three licences but not more than one in any category.
In addition to this, under the same category, a major shareholder, which was defined as a person or juristic person holding, was not allowed to hold more than 10 per cent of other companies. Unyaorn declined to comment on the legal issue but hoped that the NBTC would help save consumers from media hegemony.