(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to Interior Minister Banthatthan Banyat, RSF expressed its concern about the deterioration of journalists' security conditions as the electoral campaign draws to a close. The organisation asked the minister to take the necessary steps to guarantee the security of journalists and respect for freedom of speech. Robert Ménard, the organisation's secretary-general, recalled that "Article 21 of the Thai constitution protects the right of journalists to freely inform their fellow citizens."
According to information collected by RSF, Malika Boonmeetrakul, a journalist, and two cameramen from the private television network ITV, were attacked on 20 November 2000 by supporters of Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai's Democratic Party during an electoral meeting. After the attack, a Democratic Party leader stated that certain press professionals "are paid by political parties," so their articles are subjective.
Previously, on 15 November, young people dressed in military uniforms attacked the office of the newspaper "Daily Manager" in Bangkok and threatened the journalists who were present. Two days earlier, an officer of the army headquarters' administrative committee for radio and television ordered the daily's editorial staff to submit all audio tapes for radio to the committee for control. Failure to comply would result in heavy sanctions.
Moreover, certain candidates have been accused of putting pressure on journalists to obtain favourable coverage in the media. The editor of ITV, the only private television network, confirmed that the dismissal of the former editor-in-chief, Tchepchai Yong, is linked to his criticism of control of the network by the Shin Corps group, led by the leading candidate in the elections, Thaksin Shinawatra. This same group recently removed all its advertising from "Prachachart Turakij" after the daily revealed suspicious transfers of money by the opposition candidate.