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Thai media groups call on opposing political factions to stop violence against journalists

(TJA/IFEX) - The following is a 1 December 2008 statement from the Thai Journalists' Association (TJA):

Thai media groups call on opposing political factions: Stop violent acts against journalists

Given the incessant escalation of violence in Thailand, which has polarised society and led to the use of weapons by individuals to hurt each other, media of all branches - be they newspapers, radio or television stations - face difficulties in performing their duties in the areas where demonstration by various groups take place. There are proven facts that the media has been facing various forms of threats on a daily basis. But in the spirit of its profession, the media is still determined to do its job to uphold the nation's righteousness.
Under the current political crisis, groups of media professionals, including the Press Council of Thailand, the Confederation of Thai Journalists, the Thai Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association and the Association of Thai Cable Operators, would like to issue the following statement:

1. We condemn all forms of violence against reporters and cameramen representing all media branches. These include a threat to attack a cameramen who took video footage of a clash between opposing political supporters at Viphavadee Soi 3 in Bangkok; a threat against reporters and cameramen in Chiang Mai who were covering a fatal assault on an old man; the siege of the Thai Public Broadcasting Service's office in Chiang Mai; the use of deadly weapons to attack the office of the anti-government satellite television station ASTV, which almost injured a news host; a physical search of reporters and cameramen and daily pre-censoring of news and news photos by the People's Alliance for Democracy's (PAD) security guards at Suvarnabhumi International Airport; the shooting of an OB van of TNN, the private cable news channel; or the act of forcing a newspaper reporter to take off his T-shirt because it had an anti-violence message.

We consider these aforementioned actions to be unacceptable since they obstruct the work of the media and threaten the people's right to access to information. We therefore appeal to protestors on all sides to stop these actions once and for all.

2. No matter what the outcome of the current violence is, the media has a duty to report facts fairly so that the public is equipped with enough information to make its own decisions.

We therefore appeal to demonstrators to understand the work of the media. Any group that attacks the media will not win public support.

3. We appeal to the media of all branches, no matter which organisation they belong to or who their owners are, to perform their duty and role with propriety, reporting facts and information without being lopsided, biased, partial, groundless, or composed only of half-truths.

Under the current severe social rift, the media should have a balanced and comprehensive reporting and give all sides in the conflict fair coverage. Reporters, newscasters and news hosts must adhere to their professional ethics and not allow themselves to be influenced by any particular group, which would only add to the current violence and conflict. Whether it is ASTV, being the media outlet with a cause; the National Broadcast Service (NBT), the state television channel; or some community radio stations, all of them should recognise the neutral status of the media and they should not refrain from reporting fact-based news. Neither should they allow themselves to be used as political tools.

4. We also urge all media personnel to exercise great caution in performing their respective duties in the areas where demonstrations take place. They should be fully conscious of the fact that in the demonstration areas, where emotional outbursts can easily escalate, they could easily be a target of violence that may be either caused by misunderstanding or ignorance on the part of the media itself.

Therefore, reporters should exercise restraint and prudence and avoid reprisals and any kind of violent actions.

To help media personnel in safely performing their respective duties, the TJA will distribute to members of the media, through their editorial departments, arm bands bearing the word "Press" so that they can use these in identifying themselves properly while conducting news coverage.

Finally, the media professional groups appeal to all sides taking part in the current conflict, which is severely damaging the country's social, economic and security aspects, to stop carrying out acts of violence and find a peaceful solution to the conflict to the satisfaction of all Thai people.

The Press Council of Thailand
Confederation of Thai Journalists
Thai Journalists Association
Thai Broadcast Journalists Association
Association of Thai Cable Operators

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