With the rise of the student-led pro-democracy movement, the topic of the monarchy, which was once a taboo, now has more space in public discussion.
Social media has set a new standard of freedom of speech and a number of netizens have dared to break the tradition without fearing the harsh penalties of the lese majeste law, which could theoretically see them slapped with three to 15 years in prison.
But things have hardly changed in the Thai mainstream media which mostly applies self-censorship. Early last month, human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa brought up his demand for reform of the monarchy during a Harry Potter-themed protest in Bangkok. He is the first person in over a decade to break the taboo of criticising the high institution in public on Thai soil.
His statement came so abruptly that, worried about the consequences, most mainstream media pulled the plug on their Facebook Live reporting at the demonstration. That evening, as I learned from other journalists, a debate raged in newsrooms over whether Mr Anon’s speech should be put in the news. The next morning the part about the monarchy was mostly missing from reports. It was the same with the student rally on Aug 10 at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus, and the following two demonstrations, one led by the Free Youth group at the Democracy Monument six days later, the other on Sept 19-20 at Sanam Luang.
Some speakers went deep into the details of the proposed reform, such as the need for transparency in palace spending so the institution will maintain public respect.
Those who want to see other details of this sensitive issue must either watch live on the student movement’s Facebook page or follow certain Twitter accounts and seek out coverage by the international media.
It’s clear the Thai media is finding it difficult to adjust to this sudden change, and to convey the students’ message properly. Journalists are currently embroiled in debate as to how and to what extent they can report on the topic.
In principle, these questions shouldn’t need to be asked at all. Journalism must promote democracy and freedom of expression. But Thailand’s unique legal and social context makes most mainstream media reluctant to adhere to this principle when reporting on news pertaining to the monarchy.
The legal scope of the lese majeste law is extremely broad and open to interpretation in terms of what constitutes defamation, insult, or threats to the royal lineage. In 2014, police accepted a complaint filed by retired army generals against Sulak Sivaraksa over comments he made about King Naresuan, a 16th-century ruler of Ayutthaya. The court later dismissed the case.
Without a clear boundary over what can be defined as a breach of the lese majeste law, it’s common for newsrooms to end up in disagreement. Some don’t think reporting the students’ demands would cross the line while others do. The most common scenario is all the reports about this issue are cut or amount to just brief or vague mentions. This is because the stakes are high for established news organisations if they were to face lese majeste law charges. Social pressure is another factor that news organisations weigh in handling this topic.
Last week, a royalist group announced it would file a complaint against Voice TV, an online media outlet that has regularly criticised the government, for broadcasting the recent Thammasat University student rally on Facebook Live.
The staff of the Reporter, another news website, also had a live stream of the event. Though there is no criminal charge against them, just yet, they are aware of the possibility.
“After we consulted with lawyers, we are sure that reporting the student demand for reform of the monarchy is not against the law. But it’s still difficult to do when considering the social context,” said Thapanee Eadsrichai, a prominent journalist who founded the Reporter.
During the Harry Potter-themed protest, her team cut their Facebook Live coverage during Mr Arnon’s speech because referring to the monarchy in public was a new phenomenon at the time. But after they studied the law, they decided not to censor their reports going forward.
“The student rallies are newsworthy events, and we can’t avoid reporting it,” she said. “For me, not reporting it is irresponsible to society. Only when the audience can hear different opinions, can society as a whole discuss and find a solution peacefully.”
I could not agree more. Open and healthy discussion about the institution should be possible.
It’s time for Thai media organisations to sit down and discuss a practical approach to covering the subject before their audiences lose confidence in them forever.
Paritta Wangkiat is a Bangkok Post columnist.
Nunavut politicians vote to remove minister from cabinet over social media post – Lethbridge News Now
Before casting their ballots, some members made statements on the motion.
“It is up to us, everyone in this room, to show our commitment, to stand up against racism and gender violence. Now is that time,” Savikataaq told the assembly.
“Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. Women’s rights are human rights.”
Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone, who seconded the motion, thanked Savikataaq for his “swift action” to remove Netser.
“Freedom of expression does not equal freedom from consequence. The fact that the minister is still defending his position leads me to believe that there is no remorse,” Lightstone said.
In his statement, Netser apologized to the Black community but said his comments were not based on racism or gender violence.
“My reference to ‘all lives matter’ was certainly not stated in that context. And I would not have chosen these words if I knew they could be misconstrued as attempting to negate the struggles of my Black brothers and sisters,” Netser said.
Netser also said the Facebook post was an example of free speech.
“I understand that all lives cannot matter, if Black lives don’t matter. But my post on social media was meant to bring light to those without voices, the unborn,” he said.
“I did not make those statements in the house and I did not make them as a member of the executive council, but as an Inuk that values life.”
Netser also read a letter of support into the record from a friend, which questions whether people who criticize the government will be “picked up and shipped into the dark of the night to one of the many new internment camps across Canada.”
The letter also claims the federal government pays Canadian news media and mind control is imposed on people who speak out against the government.
Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq told the assembly he would not support the motion to oust Netser because “we do have an expression of freedom” in Canada.
“We have to think about our children and the future of our children. We have to deeply reflect on our society’s values into the future,” Qirngnuq said
Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak told the assembly Netser’s comments were concerning. And politicians can’t say whatever they want, if their words have a negative impacts on people.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, Savikataaq said the decision to remove Netser was not easy but had to be made.
Because Nunavut has a consensus-style government, only a full caucus can remove cabinet members.
Netser, who represents Coral Harbour and Naujaat, is to stay on as an MLA.
A leadership forum is expected to take place next week to select Netser’s replacement in cabinet.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2020.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian press News Fellowship
Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press
Britain's Prince Charles wrote to support historic Australian PM sacking: media – TheChronicleHerald.ca
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince Charles sent a hand-written letter of support to Australia’s governor general in 1976, backing his controversial sacking of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, local media reported on Saturday.
The letter, published on Saturday by The Australian newspaper, is dated four months after Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Australia, John Kerr, took the unprecedented step to dismiss Whitlam without first warning the palace or the prime minister.
“Please don’t lose heart,” the heir to the British throne wrote in the hand-written letter to Kerr on Mar. 27.
“What you did last year was right and the courageous thing to do — and most Australians seemed to endorse your decision when it came to the point.”
The letter was revealed in an extract of a book “The Truth of the Palace Letters: Deceit, Ambush and Dismissal in 1975” by Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston, due to be published next month.
Whitlam’s firing remains one of the country’s most polarising political events because it represented an unmatched level of intervention by the Commonwealth.
Historians say the country was never told the full story behind Whitlam’s removal during a political deadlock over the Budget and in 2016, one historian sued Australia’s National Archives for access to letters between Kerr and the Queen.
In July, the 211 so-called “palace letters” were published, pulling the veil from one of the great mysteries of Australian politics, and re-igniting a conversation about whether the country should cut ties with Britain and become a republic.
(Reporting by Paulina Duran; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)
Grieving Paradise mother finds strength by writing social media blog – TheChronicleHerald.ca
PARADISE, N.L. —
Pam Myles’ home looks as inviting as her greeting when she answers the door.
“Come in,” she says, with a warm smile.
“Don’t mind the mess,” she adds, as she walks into her living room, where a baby Exersaucer and a handful of toys rest on top of a section of colourful children’s foam floor tiles.
Other than the faint lull from the television, there’s little sound in the house as her six-month-old son, Lukas, naps in his room at the other end of the house.
“This is the time of day that’s hardest for me,” she said.
“It’s the daytime when it’s quiet.”
Normally, there would be an energetic young boy running around, likely wearing nothing but underwear, singing “Wheels on the Bus,” and climbing on a chair insisting that he help his mother wash dishes or cook supper, anxious to get a butter knife to cut up mushrooms.
“Noah was a force,” Myles said, her face lighting up. “He was busy — super, super busy. I can’t exaggerate enough how busy he was. He was bright and curious.
“And loud,” she added, laughing.
She would give anything to hear those sounds again, but they’ve been silenced forever.
On the morning of July 18, Myles’ four-year-old son, Noah, was killed in a tragic accident when he slipped out of the house, unknown to his mother, and got too close to a closing tow-long dump trailer in front of their Paradise home.
Dealing with such a heartbreaking loss has been painfully difficult for Myles and her family, including her fiancé and Noah’s father, Marko, and daughter Avery, who celebrated her 11th birthday the day before Noah died.
“We’re doing OK,” Myles said, shrugging her shoulders and nodding her head. “OK is about as good as we can expect.
“There are no really great days, but there are lots of great things in every day.”
Not an hour goes by when she doesn’t think of Noah, and she will never erase memories of the morning he died. He had been in and out of the house, running from the playhouse in the back garden to the front garden of the house, which is nestled at the end of a quiet road in a Paradise subdivision.
When it got chilly, Myles grabbed Noah’s favourite sweater — a front zip-up, a gift from a family friend, and called him inside.
“I was putting it on him and I remember holding his face and saying to him, ‘You’re a good boy, Noah.’ That wasn’t uncommon. I told him all the time, but for some reason, in that moment, I felt the need to hold his face.
“I remember his response wasn’t like, ‘Oh, thank you.’ It was, ‘Yes, I am a good boy,’” she said, laughing.
An hour later he was gone.
“It was just so sudden,” she said. “He was just outside playing and had just been inside with us.”
“Noah Bear,” as she fondly referred to him, may not be running in and out of the house anymore, but his presence is everywhere in the home. Multiple photos of him, with his siblings, parents and friends, are placed on the walls, fireplace and side tables, his smiling face still lighting up each room.
It gives the family comfort and serves as a way of helping Lukas know his big brother, she said.
“That’s important to us,” Myles said, tearing up. “Noah was so excited about him and adored him. We plan to show Lukas (photos) and make sure he knows how special he was to Noah.”
She’s glad now she took so many pictures — her last order to Costco had 1,600 photos — and hundreds of videos of Noah since he was born.
Myles has remained fairly private since Noah’s death, but three months later feels comfortable enough to speak publicly about her experience.
Through tears, smiles and laughter, she explained that sharing her thoughts and feelings not only helps her express herself, but also helps others who have experienced similar tragedies.
Myles has started a Facebook blog, “Myles in my Shoes,” which she recently created after receiving so much response on her personal Facebook page.
In her first blog post last week, she wrote, “A popular Chinese proverb states that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I suppose this is mine. At least in such a public forum.”
She introduces herself in the blog as, “A mom of three: Avery, Noah and Lukas. I am the mother of two children I get to hold in my arms and one child I hold in my heart.”
“I’m not a writer,” said Myles, adding that her training as a child- and youth-care instructor at Eastern Academy and youth counsellor at the Janeway Children’s Hospital was helpful in managing her grief.
“It’s never something I felt I was particularly skilled at,” she says of writing.
As her eyes welled with tears, she paused before continuing. “But Noah’s life had so much meaning to us and I really wanted to try to also find some meaning in his loss.”
What she found was an overwhelming response from hundreds of people, many of whom wrote to tell her about their loss, the guilt they felt and the difficulty they felt moving on in life.
“It’s validating to me to know that other people also experience that, too.
“And they felt there was something in my message that made them feel less alone.”
Helping others has helped her heal, she said.
“Writing is helping me to piece my heart and life back together and I hope it brings some comfort to another,” she wrote.
It was also a way of saying thank you to the people across the province and country who contacted them and helped them the last three months, whether it was through fundraisers, delivered meals, or messages and well wishes.
“Somewhere in the midst of my deep pain and sorrow and darkness there was light,” she wrote in the blog.
“While I had every reason in the world to want the world to stop … to lay in my bed and lay in my grief … my two beautiful children, Marko, my friends and family and the community around us reminded me of my many reasons to be grateful — grateful for what I have, grateful for what I’ve gained and, mostly, grateful for the chance to have ever been and to be Noah’s mom.”
The community’s support is evident in the blue hearts that adorn many neighbours’ properties.
On the pavement in front of the family’s house, there’s a brightly painted smiley-faced sun and rainbow, with the words, “We love you,” care of the neighbours’ kids, Dylan and Abby.
It’s been comforting as they deal with the heartache.
In their lovely landscaped front garden, there are spots to honour Noah, from the painted rocks to a mini-memorial that includes the scooter he rode and his tiny crocks.
“Oh, he loved those crocks,” Myles said, smiling.
Noah’s grandmother, Barb Wagstaff, said the happy memories are what keeps the family going.
She remembers the pitter patter of his tiny feet going up the stairs to see his poppy, Larry Myles, the paintings for Mother’s Day and throwing grass in the pond “to feed the fish” at their cabin on Hodgewater Line. They’re memories she will cherish forever.
“There are reminders of him everywhere, like when I open the cupboard and see his favourite cereal,” Wagstaff said.
“The pain hits you in waves all the time. … I think about what he would be doing if he was here. … We value the time we had with him. He was such a blessing.”
She said she and Myles’ father feel mostly for her daughter, Marko and the children.
“As parents, you want to fix things (for your children), but we can’t fix it for her,” she said.
But Wagstaff said she admires her daughter for her strength and courage to express her feelings publicly.
“She’s been an inspiration to all of us,” Wagstaff said.
It’s been a difficult three months and it will be for many more to come as Myles deals with firsts without him and the challenges of figuring out what to say when asked how many children she has.
But for Myles, it’s her two remaining children who will get her through this the most.
“I remember Marko saying to me, no matter what happens, Lukas and Avery deserve to have the same parents they had (before Noah died),” she said.
“Not to say we won’t have time for sadness and grief, but that they deserved for us to pick up, to do things they were accustomed to. That was going to be really important.
“So, with that in mind, we get up every day and do what we need to do to be the best parents we can be for the kids.”
And in the quiet of her days, it’s that which has become loud and clear.
Rosie Mullaley is the human interest reporter for The Telegram
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