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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

New Covid-19 team aims to correct bad information, not censor it.

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: onpolicy.org

A special media team the government created to try to tackle the epidemic of fake news regarding Covid-19 in Thailand has been met with suspicion they will serve a broader censorship role. The team denies the idea that the team will suppress free speech and dissent, claiming that their focus is on getting factual information disseminated about the public health crisis of Covid-19.

In fact, this new team has no legal authority to suppress anyone who spreads fake news or distorts information to the public. They are responsible for addressing rumours and fake news, but not by suppressing it. Rather, they will take the approach of countering bad information with good by reporting accurate information to the public about Covid-19 and the government’s handling of the pandemic.

The team will focus on raising public awareness about media literacy to give people more competency in interpreting the information they see in social media and other places.

Seri Wongmontha, one of the new executive editors for the team, uses the bombardment of news about vaccines as a perfect example, explaining that Covid-19 data evolves, and understanding the updated information can confuse people and make them think they are being fooled or lied to.

Seri is a specialist of the National Committee on Public Relations and says that government communication must be improved as there’s so much confusion amongst the people of Thailand about the pandemic. PM Prayut Chan-o-cha appointed him because his background in marketing will help him essentially market true Covid-19 information and government plans to the public in a way that they can understand.

He says that we are in abnormal times and must use crisis communication instead of regular patterns. Seri calls for a separation between an operations team the handles the logistics in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis and a separate communications team that handles messaging, answers questions, and helps people understand the issues and procedures at hand.

Seri says bad information can stem from distorted media and social media reports, government opponents using old Covid-19 information, but also the government itself failing to clearly respond or explain. This team will address the latter and assembled communication experts along with the Minister of the Office of the Prime Minister Anucha Nakasai who oversees state-run media, and Sansern Kaewkamnerd, director-general of the Public Relations Department.

They are setting their goal on being a clear and reliable source of honest information about Covid-19 and plan on producing easily digestible content for social media and broadcast media. They hope to become the place people go when they hear something they don’t understand or don’t know whether to believe.

Addressing possible problems, they say they are aware that young people view them as dinosaurs and Hope to adopt a strategy to gain their trust. They also vow to stay completely apolitical, though time will tell if they are able to achieve that goal.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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