The Role of Media in Promoting Good Governance

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Good governance has been a key concept for democratic development in many countries around the world during the past few decades. Thailand is one of those which have embraced the idea.

The notion of good governance was first given importance and included in the Thai national agenda in the 1990’s. At its inception, not many people, particularly those at the grassroot level, understood what it meant. There were attempts to explain this concept to the public and even attempts by community leaders and scholars to translate into Thai the term “good governance” – dhama-bhibal – with the hope that it would make it easier to understand. The need to interpret the term in its various aspects remains, however.

The explanations of good governance can be varied. One of these, which is widely accepted, focuses on the capability of the state to perform its key functions in response to the needs of its citizens, and to be accountable for what it does. Emphasis has therefore been placed on a people-centred ideology -- needs of the people, public interest, transparency, accountability and responsibility of the policy-makers. All these have also become central to establishing sustainable development.

Based on the concept of transparency, one significant development that took place in the late 1990’s in Thailand was the promulgation of an Information Act. This Act, which stipulates the openness to the public of information in the possession of state agencies, clearly underpins the universally held concept of the right to know of the people.

It has taken quite some time before the public, or even the government officials who are in possession of information, could adequately understand the necessity of information disclosure. Therefore, it was expected from the beginning that it would be the duty of the media to bring this new concept to the attention of the society.

To perform the monitoring duty as a mirror of the society, the media have been playing an important role in educating the people about the Information Act and good governance. The news and investigative reports on state performances require insightful information which might have been branded in the past by officials as “confidential”. Whether such classification of information was correct had rarely been questioned in the past.

The disclosure of government information by the media not only turns the people into informed citizens while the whole society is shifting towards post-modernity, it also encourages the people to exercise their right to know, which is imperative when they are to make choices regarding their participation in political-socio-economic affairs.

Accurate and sufficient information enables the people to better enjoy their freedom of speech, helping them make rational decisions and take the right course of action beneficial to them.

On the other hand, the work of the media forces policy-makers and officials to be more prudent about their decisions and activities that affect the livelihood of the people and the development of the society as a whole. They need to prepare to be transparent, accountable and responsible for what they do since their activities may be brought to the attention of the public at any time by the media. In fact, corruption, transparency and accountability, which have been challenges and issues of concern while the public sector strives to achieve good governance, are the focus of the media at all times.

The Thai Public Broadcasting Service – Thai PBS – for example, deems it a top priority to report corruption cases in their news. A programme, entitled “Reveal the Truth”, which features information on corruption cases and related issues, has gained high popularity among the audience. Copies of this weekly news programme are often requested by the government agencies themselves for further investigation. By providing this kind of information to promote good governance, Thai PBS believes it is making its services more...
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