Burriss: Some royal news

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BANGKOK - It's hard to imagine American media becoming totally united about anything. But I'm visiting Thailand in the wake of the death of their king, and it has been amazing to see the unity the public and the media are displaying regarding the royal family.

The general rule, for the next year, is all public activities are to be conducted in a respectful and dignified manner. That includes both behavior and dress. The population has been asked to refrain from "joyful events," and government workers are asked to wear black clothing for a year.

In the media, some displays of grief were easily understood. Much advertising in newspapers and magazines is surrounded by a black border or a white ribbon. We saw something similar in the United States with the assassination of President Kennedy.

Regular television programming has been replaced with histories of the king's life, and some web sites, including Google's Thailand home page, replaced color images with black-and-white.

The English-language newspaper, the Bangkok Post also replaced color pictures with black-and-white.

All of these expressions of grief were fairly easy to implement. But when it came to actual news reporting there was a good deal of confusion about what was allowable and what was not, as the govern-ment issued conflicting media guidelines. Sometimes multiple, conflicting, versions of the rules appeared within hours of each other.

By law, anything that appears to be critical of the royal family can be severely punished. News media outlets were told to avoid any interpretation or analysis of ether the king's death or the succession of a new king.

Internet service providers were told to ask users to report "inappropriate" content on social media sites, including Facebook and YouTube.

We've talked before about the interconnected nature of mass media today. The events in Thailand surely illustrate how events in one country, no matter how small, can have media repercussions around the world.

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