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Reuters journalist among 21 people killed in clashes

Bloody political violence between Thai red shirt protesters and government left 21 dead and hundreds wounded.
Bloody political violence between Thai red shirt protesters and government left 21 dead and hundreds wounded.

via EPA

In the worst political violence in two decades in Thailand, a Japanese journalist was killed while covering battles between red shirt protesters and police military units, report the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and other IFEX members. At least 21 people have been killed in clashes this past week; close to 900 injured. The state of emergency declared in Bangkok by the government has resulted in escalated censorship of opposition and independent media.

Reuters journalist Hiro Muramoto, 43, was carrying a video camera while covering confrontations when he was shot in the chest on 10 April. Both protesters and police were armed, so it is unclear who fired the deadly shot. According to the International Press Institute (IPI), Muramoto captured footage of a third group of gunmen who are neither protesters nor military.

The same day, freelance photographer Winnai Ditthajorn, working for Australia's ABC News, was also shot in the leg.

The state of emergency includes the power to ban public gatherings of more than five people, censor and ban media from disseminating news considered a threat to national security and order, and the detention of people without charge for up to 30 days.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ordered security forces to block the signal of the People's Television (PTV) satellite news station and 37 websites for reasons of national security. PTV, which is aligned with the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), had been broadcasting support for anti-government protests for weeks, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF). UDD protesters pressured ThaiCom to restore PTV broadcasts on 11 April, reports CPJ. News sites shut down include the independent pratchatai.com known for its diversity of information and norporchorusa.com which is linked to the red shirts. "There is a risk that the bans and censorship could radicalise the red shirts," warned RSF.

On 11 April, red shirt demonstrators seized broadcasting vans belonging to TV Thai and Channel 9 and surrounded a Channel 3 broadcasting van, chasing its staff away from the protest area.

News is being compromised as the state defines what constitutes acceptable coverage, says SEAPA. "The government continued to use state-owned radio and TV stations to present one-sided information. The government also allowed other radio stations and another satellite TV to present similar content of state media, which could lead to further rifts in the society."

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