Is CNN’s coverage really biased?
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Is CNN’s coverage really biased?

Suthichai at The Nation has tweeted this open letter to CNN is เด็ด (really good). The letter quickly spread through Facebook and Twitter

It is a letter by Napas Na Pombejra on Facebook. Let’s evaluate the claims:

Open Letter to CNN International
/>Today at 4:19pm
/>Dear Sirs/Madams,
/>Recently, CNN Thailand Correspondents Dan Rivers and Sarah Snider have made me seriously reconsider your agency as a source for reliable and accurate unbiased news. As of this writing, over thousands of CNN’s viewers have already begun to question the accuracy and dependability of its reporting as regards events in Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Iran, etc., in addition to Bangkok.
/>As a first-rate global news agency, CNN has an inherent professional duty to deliver all sides of the truth to the global public who have faithfully and sincerely placed their trust and reliance in you. Your news network, by its longtime transnational presence and extensive reach, has been put in a position of trust and care; CNN’s journalists, reporters, and researchers have a collective responsibility to follow the journalist’s code and ethics to deliver and present facts from all facets of the story, not merely one-sided, shallow and sensational half-truths. The magnitude of harm or potential extent of damage that erroneous and fallacious news reporting can cause to (and exacerbate), not only a country’s internal state of affairs, economic well-being, and general international perception, but also the real lives and livelihood of the innocent and voiceless people of that nation, is enormous. CNN should not negligently discard its duty of care to the international populace by reporting single-sided or unverified facts and distorted truths drawn from superficial research, or display/distribute biased images which capture only one side of the actual event.
Mr. Rivers and Ms. Snider have NOT done their best under these life-threatening circumstances because many other foreign correspondents have done better. All of Mr. Rivers and Ms. Sniders’ quotes and statements seem to have been solely taken from the anti-government protest leaders or their followers/sympathizers. Yet, all details about the government’s position have come from secondary resources. No direct interviews with government officials have been shown; no interviews or witness statements from ordinary Bangkok residents or civilians unaffiliated with the protesters, particularly those who have been harassed by or suffered at the hands of the protesters, have been circulated.

BP: All details of the government have come from secondary resources? Check this CNN link for an interview with Finance Minister Korn. Click on this CNN link for an interview with Panitan. All within the last couple of days. CNN have shown such interviews repeatedly so don’t know how she could have missed it.

[UPDATE: Look on the left-hand side of the page on the respective links and you will see Korn and Panitan’s face respectively. Click on that and the video will pop up.]

On those effected by protest “Battle for downtown Bangkok hits economy“. On statements by those effected, CNN:

The threat of violence silenced normally bustling streets, trapping people in their homes and shutting down offices, schools and shopping centers.
/>A spokesman for the Royal Thai Police said a group of doctors were traveling to a Buddhist temple Monday to provide medical care to women and children who have taken shelter there.
/>Supatra Jenstitvong-Assavasukee said the violence has forced her manufacturing and trade business to move meetings with clients to the outskirts of the city, shut down her son’s school and stopped her from shopping downtown.
/>”Everyone hopes for it to be over really soon. It’s really destroying a lot of things,” she said.
/>Beth Saengow, a school administrator who lives in Bangkok, said it seems like the violence is escalating.
/>”Usually Thailand is a peaceful country … I’m sure it will affect the tourism. I’m just worried about the economy,” she said.

BP: This link and click on the video of “Thai Residents Living in Chaos”, CNN interviews someone who is stuck in the zone and doesn’t know where to go. This doesn’t count as none. It is three instances in the last 4 days. CNN only does so many stories on Thailand.

The letter continues:

Why the discrepancy in source of information? Why the failure to report all of the government’s previous numerous attempts to negotiate or invitations for protesters to go home? Why no broadcasts shown of the myriad ways the red protesters have terrorized and harmed innocent civilians by burning their shops, enclosing burning tyres around apartment buildings, shooting glass marbles at civilians from high altitudes, attacking civilians in their cars, and worst of all, obstructing paramedics and ambulances carrying civilians injured by M79 grenade blasts during the Silom incident of April 24, 2010, thereby resulting in the sole civilian casualty? The entire timeline of events that have forced the government to take this difficult stance has been hugely and callously ignored in deference to the red ‘underdogs’.

BP: Sole civilian casaulty? What about the 34 civilians killed since Thursday? This story quotes Abhisit as stating:

Abhisit said the government’s actions were necessary to prevent Thailand from sinking into lawlessness. He said security forces and his administration are attempting to counter a small group of protesters among the opposition Red Shirts trying to foment civil war.
/>”The government proposed a reconciliation plan but it was rejected. This benefits no one. It only benefits a small group which wants to harm the country and lead it to civil war. It is unbelievable that they use peoples’ lives for political advantage,” he said.

BP: For the other parts, she provides a myraid of links, but not specifically in relation to her accusations of things that CNN is not showing.

The letter continues:

Mr. Rivers and Ms. Snider’s choice of sensational vocabulary and terminology in every newscast or news report, and choice of images to broadcast, has resulted in law-abiding soldiers and the heavily-pressured Thai government being painted in a negative, harsh, and oppressive light, whereas the genuinely violent and law-breaking arm of the anti-government protesters – who are directly responsible for overt acts of aggression not only against armed soldiers but also against helpless, unarmed civilians and law-abiding apolitical residents of this once blooming metropolis (and whose actions under American law would by now be classified as terrorist activities) – are portrayed as righteous freedom fighters deserving of worldwide sympathy and support. This has mislead the various international Human Rights watchdogs to believe the Thai government are sending trigger-happy soldiers out to ruthlessly murder unarmed civilians without just cause.

BP: It is hard to critique this as she doesn’t point to any particular report. You know when you critique someone, you usually quote what you think is wrong with something, but she just asserts something without backing anything she states up.

BP: Then below she provides an assortment of evidence without specificially stating or hightlighting how any of the below are better. For example, for the NYT article in (1), does she want CNN to report this:

One photographer reported seeing two dead or wounded victims unattended in a street for a long period because of the fear of snipers. The military was not allowing ambulances to pass a roadblock, the photographer said, which meant that rescue workers had to run in a crouch with stretchers to carry out the victims.

BP: Obstructing ambulances. This what she accuses the red shirts of doing, but the links she supplies states one instance of the military doing this.

Now, perhaps she is right that CNN’s coverage is “one-sided, shallow and sensational half-truths”, but she does not demonstrate this.

Her complaint seems to be about CNN going to the street and seeing the fighting on the ground which is something the foreign media do a much better job of than the Thai media (some exceptions in the Thai media like ThaiPBS and TNN). For example, Bangkok Street Battles. CNN see guys using slingshots. CNN see unarmed people and rescue workers shot. CNN then goes to the army side to see what the army is shooting, you can see the army shooting quite freely. The part that the CNN gets wrong is when they state that two soldiers had died. Only one soldier has been killed.

Below is the evidence she includes:

/>Enclosed herewith for your attention and information some examples of other quality international news bulletins by respectable foreign journalists so you may assess at your leisure the sub-par quality and misleading nature of Mr. Rivers and Ms. Sniders’ journalism:
/>1. New York Times:
/>2. Fox News/Associated Press:
/>3. Global Post:
/>4. NHK:
/>5. Al Jazeera:
/>6. Deutsche Welle (English media in Germany):
/>7. Local English daily newspaper’s chronology of events on Day 3 of “War in Bangkok”:
/>Youtube Videos, images, articles showing what CNN has failed to circulate:
/>1. [BP: This video is the one where you see someone in a black hood with a gun for about half a second – the title is “terrorist red shirts”. You can’t see what is happening or who this guy is].
/>2. [BP:This video is from Friday when a group of people attacked an army vehicle, throw some punches, a gun shot goes off and a solider falls to the ground. Actually, BP saw CNN air part of this video on Sunday night].
/>3. [BP: This is the same as the second video, but just from NBT].
/>4.!v=4hmSPbugDAA&feature=related [BP: This is the video of a red apparently showing an M79 grenade which Col. Sansern showed. This is what a real M79 being fired is like because the smoke ones defeat the purpose and give away your location].
/>5. [BP: there is nothing here].
/>6.!v=XRi6m7QG06M&feature=related [BP: this is from April 13 – don’t have time to search through CNN archives for what they were showing back in April].
/>7.!v=Aws3ZMXzNjs&feature=related [BP: ThaiPBS news story mentioning marbles show at someone, but you don’t see video of this happening].
/>8.!v=giuEOQ62n6E&feature=related [BP: This is from the Chula hospital incident. Again, don’t have time to search through CNN archives for what they were showing then].
/>9.!v=yy3a73Y6fBg&feature=related [BP: Arisman from March].
/>10. [BP: Video of black shirts from April 10].
/>11. [BP: Same as video No. 4].
/>12.!v=LXMmQReCKVg&feature=related [BP: From April 13].
/>13.!v=FWN7zYV7_Bo&feature=related [BP: From April 13].
/>14. [BP: from April 23 – from AC too!]
/>15. [BP: from April 23 although video is of a witness stating the M79s were not fired from red shirts!]
/>16. [BP: Caption states they are being used for molotov cocktails, but they look very, very old and dusty].
/>17. [BP: We are linking to op-ed pieces now].

BP: This is getting pointless. Check the rest on your own. If you are going to send videos to a news organization, you should include an explanation for each video and how it is relevant.

If you want CNN to show videos from April then CNN should be showing videos of injured reds from back then too, but this is not her point. The rest is below: