The BBC World Service yesterday launched a 'pop up' news organisation in Thailand in an effort to circumvent the restrictions they say are affecting press freedom since the Thai army seized power in May.
Publishing direct to Facebook and using the social media platform's Notes feature as a content management system (CMS), articles will focus on national and international news and reaction to the ongoing political situation.
"When it comes to restrictions on the media in Thailand, the situation is more complicated than it appears," BBC World Service hub editor for south east Asia, Giang Nguyen, told Journalism.co.uk.We think there’s an acute need in Thailand for accurate, impartial news, reported without fear or favour, and that’s what we’re supplyingGiang Nguyen, BBC World Service
“Technically, all broadcasters and media outputs remain on air and online but many Thai opinion makers, [like] independent editors and writers, have been targeted.
“Reports say alongside human rights activists, a number of journalists have been either put under political pressure or even detained and so they [are] no longer willing to initiate or even take part in any meaningful public debates about the current situation in Thailand.”
The page has gained more than 40,000 'likes' on Facebook in the 24 hours since launch, publishing links to stories in Thai and articles in the Notes system in "a mobile-first context", said Nguyen, limiting the copy to four or five paragraphs.
The BBC estimates more than 24 million of Thailand's 66 million citizens are active Facebook users, with more than 13 million in Bangkok, and in a country where there are "more mobile phones than there are people", Nguyen said the situation is ideal to "launch a 'social-first' news stream" optimised for mobile.
News articles will be supplied by a mixture of BBC News journalists and agencies, Thai media sources, freelancers and social newsgathering.
"Social and digital are the future of news – but the quality of news is always going to be more important than the platform," he said.
"We think there’s an acute need in Thailand for accurate, impartial news, reported without fear or favour, and that’s what we’re supplying."
Nguyen said the approach was similar to that which the BBC World Service has taken with BBC Türkçe – "now a 'social-first' service, he said – but the Thai project is the "first to be launched exclusively on social media".
Last year, the BBC launched a mobile audio bulletin service in Burma and has been experimenting with distributing and sourcing news stories through private social networks like WhatsApp in recent months, particularly during the recent Indian elections.
The Thai service is planned for an initial trial period of three months, during which the BBC will expand to other social networks before assessing its impact and effectiveness.
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