Press Freedom Watchdog Slams Thai Junta’s Media ‘Blitzkrieg’ in Report

BenarNews Staff
150914-TH-journalist-620 This picture of Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk, which was taken in Bangkok on May 25, 2014, illustrates the cover of a new report on press freedom in Thailand by Reporters Without Borders.

Since the Thai military seized power in a coup 18 months ago, the junta’s obsession with peace and order has led the ruling generals to suppress Thailand’s media under their “reign of terror,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says in a new report.

The Paris-based press freedom watchdog on Thursday released a 44-page report, “Media hounded by junta since 2014 coup,” which examines the record and policies of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s regime toward journalists and news organizations. RSF has also ranked Thailand 134th out of 180 nations on its 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

The “junta has been persecuting the media for the past 18 months, imposing a reign of terror that has included interrogations, arbitrary arrests, a spate of prosecutions and barely veiled threats,” the report states.

The junta’s obsessiveness with peace and order – “or its use as a pretext,” as RSF puts it – “has stripped journalists and independent civil society representatives of the media freedom and freedom of information that they had won at great cost during the previous decade,” the report says.

It points to the government’s strategy of raids on media outlets and arrests of journalists along with mass URL blocking and surveillance of internet users.

“This theft of freedoms that are indispensable to democracy has been perpetrated by the military in full view of the international community, which has not, however, sufficiently decried it,” RSF concludes.

V for victory

One of the report’s chapters documents the persecution of the news website Phuketwan. Journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian were acquitted in September on defamation charges brought against them by the Thai navy based on a 41-word excerpt from a Reuters news report, which the website published in July 2013 as part of a report on human trafficking.

“With the whole future of Thailand as a democracy up in the air, it is not a good time for the military to be suing media outlets using oppressive criminal defamation laws,” RSF quoted Morison as saying.

The report’s cover features a photograph of Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk (pictured above) from 2014, his mouth taped shut and hand raised, flashing the victory sign.

Thai authorities took Pravit, a former reporter and columnist for The Nation, into custody again in September and released him two days later after an “attitude adjustment” session. To regain his freedom, Pravit, a frequent critic of the military-led government, had to sign a document in which he agreed not to lead, participate or assist in any anti-coup activities.

The report’s conclusion goes so far as to compare Prime Minister Prayuth, a former general whom RSF describes as “capricious,” to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“Like Pyongyang’s dictator, Gen. Prayut[h] has cast himself as the nation’s savior, he appears in his own weekly TV program, and he orders severe sanctions for those who dare to question his legitimacy or criticize his policies.”


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