Prachatai, the Thai media outlet championing democracy

Prachatai, the Thai media outlet championing democracy

July 16, 2018

One day in my media organisation is a series of weekly reports illustrating the daily lives of people who work in media organisations across Africa, the Arab world and Southeast Asia, supported by CFI.

This week, we have an interview with Chiranuch Premchaiporn, general manager of Prachatai.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand's capital city. She qualified as a journalist at Thammasat University and for a year edited a local magazine. After 4 months as the presenter of a regional radio station's news bulletin, she joined the AIDS Access Foundation (ACCESS), an NGO involved in combating HIV/AIDS.

Thirteen years later, in 2004, she was recruited to work on the newly launched Prachatai online magazine. She is currently its general manager.

An editorial line promoting human rights

Founded on 6 September 2004 by Jon Ungphakorn, a senator and influential social activist, Prachatai addresses primarily social and political topics, with a particular focus on human rights and democracy. Setting up as an online publication was the most appropriate choice: "We chose to be an online publication because its an affordable medium and the internet is an easy way in which to interact with the public", says Chiranuch.
Prachatai Prachatai in fact has almost 300,000 Facebook followers and over 100,000 on Twitter: "We used to use Twitter to publish articles from our website Nowadays, we encourage our teams to personalise publications as much as possible. Facebook is therefore now the only way for our readers to comment on articles and message us directly.When everyone is busy, however, we take the automated option.", she explains.

Facebook is primarily used for launching opinion polls, publishing computer graphics or fomenting debate on certain subjects. " Given the laws currently in force, we have deactivated the comments function at the end of articles on the website", she goes on to say.

The magazine has 16 full-time employees and its premises are in the Huai-Kwang district of Bangkok. The editorial team meets every Monday for discussions, to present topics and to draft the week's work schedule. " We do not cover every subject and our journalists have to comply with codes of conduct. We value our independence as it gives us the opportunity to treat topics not covered in the traditional media or that the latter censor", the director confirms.

An economic model based on funding from readers

The website, which is available in English and in Thai, has two main sources of income: " Around 85% comes from donors and around 15% from the sale of advertising banners, the Google-Ad plug-in and the online store". The store offers articles such as T-shirts, books, etc.

The company has also developed a range of services: " We offer graphics, event-organisation, reporter services, etc. But these activities must not jeopardise our independence or conflict with the fundamental values we uphold", she adds. In the long term, Prachatai sees itself diversifying its funding sources in order to retain as much freedom as possible: "We want to avoid reliance on a single or predominant financing method."

Further restrictions since the coup on 22 May 2014

Thai journalists enjoy a relatively broad degree of freedom.Chiranuch describes the tension of working as a journalist since the coup of 22 May 2014: "Nevertheless, if self-censorship becomes the norm it will be professional journalists' greatest challenge". Public confidence in the media, which has been the subject of criticism for a number of years, is diminishing: "The viability of independent entities such as Prachatai is very fragile in a context such as this, she points out.

The other challenge facing Prachatai is the rapid evolution of information technologies, "which involve a rapid learning curve and swift adaptation on the part of our team", the general manager stresses. Prachatai took part in the CFI Media 4M Asia project, which aimed to contribute to media pluralism and to consolidate national cohesion by addressing local and community issues.

In the near future, journalists from the information portal will be increasingly encouraged to opt for investigative reporting. " We intend to produce joint investigative reports with members of civil society or figures from academia. Our objective is that Prachatai should play a part in the construction of a society that has human rights at the heart of its core values", she concludes.