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PM's buzzer 'not constructive' - Michael Davis

So the prime minister of Thailand thinks he can put the kibosh on questions he doesn't like to answer from reporters, does he?

The Associated Press reported yesterday that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has taken to using a buzzer to sound disapproval of some questions asked by reporters during a series of news conferences he's holding. If he doesn't like what they ask, or deems it "not constructive," he sounds a hand-held buzzer that displays an "X" sign.

Questions he approves of get a more pleasant sound and the buzzer displays an "O" to signal his approval.

It's one thing to refuse to answer a reporter's questions about national policy at a news conference of all places, but it's entirely another to indicate personal approval or disapproval of the question even being asked.

Someone should tell Thaksin that his buzzer is "not constructive."

Reporters should feel free to ask all the questions they like. And it's up to them to determine if their question is constructive or not. It should be their call, not the person being asked.

Granted, maybe you shouldn't ask the president or a general what they had for breakfast at a news conference about a military operation, but I don't think a reporter would get so far off-subject.

It's our job to determine what we think is constructive information that readers and media consumers would feel is relevant. If someone doesn't want to answer the question, we have no problem saying that they didn't want to answer the question.

I hope the reporter that asked Thaksin whether he thinks foreign terrorists might be inciting rebellion there wrote in his story that not only did the country's top official not answer the question, he "disapproved" of it being asked.

When we reach the day in this country when journalists are hamstrung by our leaders' approval or disapproval of a question people want an answer to, it will indeed be a very sad day.

I only hope that Thaksin's supposed approval or disapproval of one line of questioning or another doesn't stop the questions from being asked. In a perfect world, every question would get an answer, whether the question is irrelevant or not. But we don't live in a perfect world, do we?

Michael Davis covers government for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Fridays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at mdavis@henryherald.com .