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Armed Thai soldiers and local officials inspect the Patong beach during a cleanup operation in Phuket, southern Thailand. (AP Photo/Krissada Mueanhawong)
On Thursday, the BBC launched a Thai news feed through Facebook to help get news in and out of a country with a military that has tightly controlled information since it took over in a coup in May.
And they’re planning to expand to other social media platforms, Charlotte Morgan, head of International Communications for BBC News, told Poynter in an e-mail. Facebook will be the BBC’s content management system using the Notes feature, she said, and the BBC is focusing on publishing short stories with four to five paragraphs.
“The content will be around international news, international reactions to the situation in Thailand, news from Thailand – through the BBC and also content from agencies, Thai media, stringers and social newsgathering,” Morgan said.
That news will be multimedia, Morgan said, with audio and video when possible.
“It’s similar to the approach we’ve taken with BBC Turkish which is now a ‘social first’ service, but Thai is the first to be launched exclusively on social media,” she said, adding that the BBC is increasing social media for all the languages it produces news for.
When asked if the network fears Facebook getting blocked in Thailand, Morgan said: “We know that social media is a key source of news in Thailand at the moment and we call on all countries to provide free and open access to media.”
On Wednesday, Damien McElroy reported for The Telegraph about the new service and the popularity of Facebook in Thailand, noting that in a population with 67 million, 24 million are Facebook users. BBC Thai had more than 26,000 likes by 3 p.m. Eastern.
Earlier on Thursday, Poynter wrote about the new feed and the coup that led to many media outlets getting shut out of Thailand.
On Wednesday, Reporters Without Borders wrote that Thai military are monitoring Facebook and “a political message there can put a journalist behind bars.” Thanapol Eawsakul, a magazine editor, was arrested and jailed for four days after posting comments on Facebook.
Upon his release, authorities had demanded that the journalist promise in writing to abstain from political activities that could generate social unrest. Precisely what Eawsakul wrote in the Facebook post that led to his subsequent arrest is not known. But the authorities are engaging in a widespread crackdown on social media, especially Facebook.