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Thai journalists call for revocation of oppressive media laws

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 17 November 2014.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) and National Union of Journalists, Thailand (NUJT) in calling on the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to immediately revoke the current oppressive media laws that continue to stifle press freedom in the country. The call comes amid continued pressure on the media and journalists since the beginning of the year with the declaration of Martial Law.

Today, the TJA and NUJT said that it is crucial for Thailand's democracy that order 103, which prohibit any form of criticism towards NCPO and order 97 which affectively prohibits criticism towards military authorities are disbanded.

Following the declaration of Martial Law in May this year, in an attempted to 'keep law and other', the IFJ, TJA and NUJT also urge NCPO to review the use of Martial Law, in order to encourage an open discussion on political reform among Thai society.

Last week, the South East Asian Journalist Unions (SEAJU) expressed regional concerns on the media situation in Thailand when it issued a demand calling for increased respect for journalists' right to form and join unions and the urgent need for improvement to the state of press freedom in the country.

The suppression of media freedom in Thailand is evident with the shutting of more than 100 websites, 15 radio stations by the military government. Prominent TV host Ms Nattaya Wawweerakhup of the program People's Voice for a Changing Society was sacked from her show after she hosted an open forum critiquing the government and calling on the NCPO to involve civil society in its reforming plan.

Manop Thiposod, TJA Vice President for Press Freedom and Media Reform, said: "Intervention and restriction are not the way toward reform and resilience. He also said that those in power should be open to different opinions, because free expression would help NCPO acquire a lot of useful recommendations and proposal for the reform."

The IFJ Asia-Pacific said: "It is the vital role of the Thai media to disseminate information to the people during this tumultuous period. The military is not only crippling the democratic process in demanding silence from media outlets, they are restricting the ability of media outlets to report important updates about the continuing violence and unrest. In doing so they are risking the safety of the citizens they are supposed to protect, especially at a time when citizens are being warned to not spread information on social media."

Following the declaration of Martial Law in Thailand in May this year, there have been a series of direct interventions and attacks on press freedom in Thailand. Senior reporter of The Nation, Pravit Rojanaphruk, was amongst the 100 prominent Thais summoned by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to attend the Royal Thai Army auditorium. Following, the group were detained at undisclosed military locations. During the same period, the editor of Same Sky magazine, Thanapol Eawsakul, was arrested following an anti-coup protest on Friday, May 23.

The Press Council of Thailand, the Thai Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association and the Thai Society of Professional Broadcasters jointly issued an open letter to the Peace and Order Maintaining Council (POMC) to review all orders related to the restriction of the media freedom issued since 22 May.

The IFJ has strongly condemned the implementation of Martial Law in Thailand and for pushing some television networks off the air to "preserve peace and order". MV 5, DNN, UDD, Asia Update, P&P 6, Channel 7, Blue Sky, FMTV, T News, and ASTV were among those taken off the air by the military order.

SEAJU released a statement earlier this month which noted that working conditions for journalists in Thailand remains dangerous and politically unstable since the Thai military took control of the country in the May coup d'état.

SEAJU said: "In recent years, many Thai journalists have been the subject of poor treatment by their media organisations due to insufficient protection for their safety and welfare issues. Journalists have increasing difficulties in accessing welfare, health support and fair working conditions and contracts. The unstable political environment in Thailand continues to weaken the media environment, making it unsafe and challenging for journalists to do their work."

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
  • Thai military authorities force broadcast reporter off the air

    Thai Public Broadcasting Service reporter Nattaya Wawweerakup was suspended from hosting her program, "Voices of the People that Change Thailand," after soldiers raised objections with the station's managers about her interviews with local people who criticized the ruling junta.



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