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Journalists subjected to intimidation tactics over Red Shirt coverage, interview with prime minister

(SEAPA/IFEX) - 26 August 2011 - A broadcast journalist from Thailand's Channel 7 has been subjected to intimidation tactics via e-mails circulated by alleged members of the Red Shirt movement, prompting concerned journalists to raise the issue with the newly formed administration of Yingluck Shinawatra.

The "Bangkok Post" reported, on 26 August 2011, that a group of journalists covering parliament submitted an open letter to the prime minister calling for attention to the "hate campaign" consisting of e-mails containing a photo of the Channel 7 journalist, who recently conducted an interview with Prime Minister Yingluck. The e-mail messages criticised the journalist's interview and called on readers to "Remember her face" and "Take care of her when you see her."

The Red Shirts also reportedly used intimidation tactics against a journalist from the Chinese national TV station CCTV. The movement's members prevented her from reporting on their rally because she showed up at the venue in a yellow outfit.

The polarisation of Thai politics in the last five years has placed the Thai media in the middle of many conflicts. Violations including physical threats and hate speech against the media have been widely committed by both the Red Shirts and the pro-monarchy Yellow Shirts. However the former, which constitutes a significant base of the Puea Thai Party and helped bring Yingluck's administration into power in July, is known to have had many altercations with the Thai media during their rallies in 2010 against the previous administration led by the Democratic Party. One of their accusations was that the Thai media reported in favour of the previous administration of Abhisit Vejjajiva.

On 25 August, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand and the Thai Journalists Association issued a joint statement condemning the intimidation tactics as a threat to media freedom, saying these actions undermine journalistic work. The groups urged all parties to respect the role of the media in obtaining the truth and called on them to refrain from regarding the media as a party to any conflict.

"The media should not be a target for threats, intimidation and interference by any party," the statement said. "Without freedom of the media and independence in reporting, the public will be deprived of access to information." The groups also urged the opposing parties to exercise their rights and express their opinions in accordance with Article 28 of the Thai Constitution and to refrain from trampling the rights of those who hold differing views.

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