The Bangkok Post’s extraordinary retraction
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The Bangkok Post’s extraordinary retraction

The Bangkok Post yesterday had an article entitled “Post retracts Anand front-page article:

Yesterday’s edition of the Bangkok Post carried a front-page article with the headline “Anand spurns advisory council”.

The Bangkok Post would like to clarify that both the headline and statements attributed to former prime minister Anand Panyarachun in the article are erroneous and totally groundless.

Mr Anand confirmed that he has never spoken to any Bangkok Post reporter about the matter.

The Bangkok Post regrets the error and apologises for any inconvenience or negative repercussions caused by the article upon Mr Anand and the government.

Below are some excerpts from the retracted article:

Former prime minister Anand Panyarachun has turned his back on the government’s proposed political reform assembly, saying he will not allow himself to be used as a political pawn.

While several have agreed to join the assembly if certain conditions are met, Mr Anand ruled out being a part of it even before he was approached to do so.

Mr Anand said yesterday he had not been approached by the government to join the proposed council, but stressed he would not take part in it to avoid being used as a pawn by any party.

He also questioned the motives of those who floated the names of people they wanted to take part in the assembly.

[This tactic] would make it seem to the public that the government is trying to foster national reconciliation but the others just won’t cooperate,” he said.

BP: This is a direct quote. From the presentation of the article it is unambiguous. Remember it was on the front page.

A few things:

1. The byline for the article reads “Nattaya Chetchotiros, Aekarach Sattaburuth & Patsara Jikkham”. Nattaya is a former head of the Thai Journalist’s Association and is currently Assistant News Editor. She is a very experienced journalist and frequently handles the major political interviews – Abhisit, Thaksin etc. She is not a novice.

2. There are three possibilities. Either (a) the reporter(s) made the quotes up (i.e there was no conversation with Anand at all), (b) Anand made the statements, but he believed they were off-the-record and so shouldn’t have been attributed to him, or (c) Anand made the statements on the record, but later regretted his statements and so asked the Bangkok Post to retract the article.

For (a), now BP could imagine reporters faking man-on-the-street interviews or interviews with very minor figures (like Jayson Blair), but Anand is not a minor figure. He would see his quotes in the paper. It is not as if you could get away with such a thing without any fall-out. The retraction though gives the impression that it was (a), but surely there would have to be consequences for whoever obtained the quote. You can’t just fabricate a quote like that. Nattaya has an analysis piece today in the Bangkok Post and Patsara has an article which suggests they have not been punished so can one assume that the impression of the retraction is not correct?

For (b), this could be the result of “miscommunication”, but then the retraction would be a lie. The retraction states “Mr Anand confirmed that he has never spoken to any Bangkok Post reporter about the matter” which still leaves the possibility that Anand made the statements, but not to a Bangkok Post reporter. However, the retraction also states that statements attributed to… Anand… in the article are erroneous and totally groundless”. This is a complete denial. The Bangkok Post may consider it a white lie in order to placate Anand as they view they have some fault over the miscommunication, but it would still be a lie.

For (c), the idea that it could be this one just boggles the mind. Wanting to keep in the good graces of Anand for future inside information would be an explanation, but it would be extraordinary if it was true as it would mean the Post had retracted a true story at the request of someone so they wouldn’t be embarrassed. BP could imagine in the heat of the moment that Anand could have said something that he later regretted, but surely then he would still have time before publication to speak to the reporters or the editor to get the story killed. If either side is going to kill the story, wouldn’t it be better to do so before publication.

None of the possibilities is good for the Bangkok Post, but BP thinks (a) is unlikely. Make up your own mind whether it is (b) or (c)….

h/t to Zenjournalist