|statment of thai Journalists Association|
|เสาร์, 11 พฤศจิกายน 2006|
Thai Journalists Association and Thai Broadcast Journalists Association’s statement on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day 2006.
The situation of press freedom in Thailand has badly deteriorated over the past year. It’s “the era of fear and hatred” because the local news media organizations and reporters have not only encountered various forms of media intimidation but also have faced growing mistrust from the public due to systematic, relentless state efforts to discredit their works.
It’s shameful and sad that the media freedom has been under greater threats since Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra won the landslide election in February last year. Since then, Prime Minister Thaksin’s government has been trying to undermine the media by, for instance, filing the lawsuits to several news media organizations. Bangkok Post faced a libel lawsuit over a corruption report on the Suvarnabhumi Airport. Moreover, a former deputy commerce minister filed another defamation lawsuit against Matichon newspaper for its report over the politicians’ connection with the irregularities in PICNIC fraudulent share transactions. We view such lawsuits as the government’s attempt to discourage the news media from performing their duties as the public watchdog. Moreover, over the past year, the government has exercised its power to interfere with the operation of media and alternative media, which otherwise should have promoted the social diversity. For instance, the authorities have closed some community radio programs or sacked certain news anchorpersons who were critical of the government.
Alarmingly, we have faced the threats from the mass protesters against the media, something that we have never experienced in recent years even during the dictatorship. In fact, we have strong reasons to believe that the protesters were mobilized by politicians to weaken the media’s performance. A week before the April 2 election, hundreds of protesters sealed off Kom Chad Luek newspaper and they showed a tendency to resort to violence. The same incident also happened at Naew Na newspaper. In the same week, a number of taxi motorcyclists threw rocks and bottles into Manager daily newspaper’s headquarters to vent their anger towards the newspaper’s articles which have been critical of the corruption scandals.
Over the past year, we also witnessed at least two incidents where people with political connections tried to take control over the news media organizations by using capitalistic means. There was an aborted hostile takeover on Matichon from a group of investors who were believed to have business links with Prime Minister Thaksin. Moreover, the same group of investors also managed to acquire some shares in Bangkok Post. Such business deals made us fear that there might be any hidden political motives. Apart from the above-mentioned acts, Thai news media also faced with a series of media intimidation in their daily routines. For instance, state-run TV and radio producers have to exercise the self-censorship by avoiding reporting news stories which have been critical against the government.
We are outraged with the above-mentioned acts and attempts to prevent the media from performing our professional duties. We demand an immediate end to such attempts because we strongly believe that the media freedom is an essential element in every democratic society. It’s impossible for the democracy to function effectively in the society where the press freedom has been under this kind of threat.
Thai Journalists Association www.tja.or.th
Thai Broadcast Journalists Association www.thaibja.org
May 3, 2006
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