The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, has written today to Thailand's Prime Minister The Right Honourable Thaksin Shinnawatra calling on his family company, Shin Corp, to relinquish its stake in television network ITV and to introduce new rules to prevent conflicts of interest over media ownership.
The IFJ argues that the Prime Minister should not be financing the largest shareholder of a major television station as this creates an inevitable conflict of interest.
The Prime Minister's family company, Shin Corp, has a 50 per cent stake in ITV.
"The argument can be made that since the increase in Shin Corp's shares of ITV in November 2000, the station was used as a political tool for your victory in the national election," said IFJ President Christopher Warren in a letter to the Prime Minister of Thailand.
"It is shocking that in one of Asia's leading democracies such a conflict of interest can be permitted. The IFJ believes that new rules are needed to ensure that conflicts of interest such as this are banned and that media ownership does not lead to interference in the democratic process," said the IFJ.
The IFJ has compared the situation in Thailand with that in Italy, with the Italian Prime Minister owning several private television networks in that country.
"The ITV once had a reputation for hard hitting news stories and for upholding journalistic integrity and it now suffers from exactly the same problem it was designed to avoid: the image of a television outlet controlled by a powerful interest group," Warren said in the letter to the Prime Minster today.
The IFJ has called on the Prime Minister of Thailand to relinquish his family's stake in ITV immediately and introduce media ownership laws to ban further conflicts of interest in the future.
In a related issue, journalists' organisations from Taiwan, Pakistan, Nepal, India and Cambodia have joined the call for ITV to reinstate the 21 workers that were illegally sacked from ITV for forming a union early in 2001.
The workers have had three decisions in their favour for reinstatement, and yet ITV, owned by Shin Corp, has to date refused to rehire and compensate the workers.
To view the IFJ's and other organisations' protests on this issue, visit IFJ Asia