You guessed it, the main picture and story on the front page of the first issue of “Red News” weekly couldn’t be anyone else but the Big Boss.
What was surprising, though, was that Thaksin Shinawatra’s much-hyped article to launch the tabloi today was not there. Why? Noppadon Pattama, Thaksin’s close aide, said the draft of the article was simply “too hot” to handle and, if published in its original form, could cause trouble for Pheau Thai Party.
Therefore, you didn’t get to read Thaksin’s “inaugural column” because he was censored from Day One.
That makes it all the more in demand. I hope the paper’s editors would do a good job at sub-editing the article so that Thaksin’s views can be read by all concerned. But then, if he decides to become a columnist, that’s the “occupational hazard” he would have to be ready to accept.
Red News’s front-page lead on the front page was about the rally in front of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda’s residence on April 8, this year.
Editor Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, a leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), says Thaksin isn’t backing the paper financially. A fund-raising dinner on May 23 collected about Bt1.5 million to operate the weekly paper.
So far, UDD says about 1,000 readers have subscribed to the 32-page publication that will cover politics, economics, social and religious news. Each subscriber pays Bt1,500 a year.
Keeping the UDD fire stoked
Publishers of a new weekly tabloid look for new ways to sustain interest in the red shirt movement,
Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra no longer phones in, and his former spokesman Jakrapob Penkair has fled to other shores. But the publishers of Red News, a new weekly tabloid published by the red shirts, reckon they can still find ways to keep interest in the movement alive.
The tabloid, which hits newsstands today , will have a print run of 15,000 copies. Launched by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, Red News will have 32 pages, four of them in colour, covering politics, religion, social and economic issues.
In addition to Thaksin and Mr Jakrapob as regular columnists, Lt Sunisa Lertpakawat, the author of two books – Thaksin, Where Are You? and Thaksin, Are You OK? – and UDD leader Jaran Dithapichai will be among guest columnists. The UDD says it has found about 1,000 subscribers, each paying 1,500 baht a year.
It denies that Thaksin is backing the tabloid financially. A fund-raising dinner on May 23 made about 1.5 million baht to run the weekly, it says.
The UDD is launching Red News to communicate with its supporters nationwide after the Democrat Party-led government ordered the closure of its DStation satellite TV channel and several community radio stations shortly after it cracked down on UDD demonstrators in Bangkok last month.
“We want it to be a mouthpiece of the red shirt supporters and Khun Thaksin. We want them to express their ideas and show how they feel about this government,” said Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, a UDD leader who is also editor.
Mr Somyos, former editor of Siam Parithat, a now-dissolved weekly magazine, said Red News would cover news which the mainstream media overlooked.
The mainstream media were finding it hard to cover anti-government activities as they were controlled by the government and army, he said.
The newspaper would examine whether government policies really benefit people. It would cater to Thaksin supporters such as government opponents, farmers, the poor, labourers and the underprivileged.
Due to a shortage of staff, which Mr Somyos admitted was a major obstacle, the newspaper has to rely on red shirt supporters to supply information and articles. The stories sent to the editorial team would be edited by four permanent staff including himself.Mr Somyos called on the government to be open-minded about the newspaper. “I’m still afraid it will order the newspaper to stop publishing at any time,” he said. Prasong Lertrattanawisuth, president of the Thai Journalists Association, said he had no objection to the newspaper, as long as it respected people’s rights under the constitution.
By Anucha Charoenpo