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Reporter shot dead in his home following death threats related to reporting

(TJA/IFEX) - A reporter for a local Thai-language daily and a television station was shot dead inside his home on 1 August 2008 in Nakorn Sri Thammarat province.

Police identified the victim as Athiwat Chaiyanurat, a reporter for "Matichon" newspaper and stringer for the army-owned Channel 7 television station.

TJA condemns the killing of Athiwat as a reckless and barbaric act.

A chief investigator of the Provincial Police Command's Division 8, responsible for Nakorn Sri Thammarat, said the killing took place in the victim's house in Tambon Chaiyamontri, Muang District, at around 8:00 p.m. (local time) while the journalist was in the kitchen cooking. Police said Athiwat received two shots to the back and two to the head. Col. Ranapong Saikaew, Division 8 deputy commissioner, said the killer must have snuck into the house undetected earlier in the day.

According to Ranapong, the journalist's wife and son had just phoned him 10 minutes before they walked home to find his dead body.

A preliminary investigation suggests the killing was linked to Athiwat's work as a journalist. He had recently reported on allegations of corruption within the local administration. He had also covered a police manhunt for a hit man who had been in the district prior to the local election. His report about the assassin reportedly angered a senior civil servant who allegedly provided protection for the hit man. The reporter had received death threats and exercised caution whenever he was traveling.

"The fact that the killing took place inside the reporter's house indicates that it was not only premeditated but also masterminded by influential figures," said the TJA in a statement. "It challenges authorities' responsibility in protecting and keeping public peace and order," the organisation added.

More importantly, the TJA said that the killing was obviously "aimed at silencing the media and discouraging them from reporting facts."

The TJA urges the National Police Commissioner to promptly arrest and bring the killer to justice so that Athiwat's murder not set a dangerous precedent and encourage further attacks against the media.

The journalists' group also urges the police to keep the public informed as to progress in the investigation so as to restore public confidence.

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