Press muzzled

4 05 2015

Everyone knows it yet it is still appropriate for SEAPA, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, to say it:

SEAPAThe big news of the year is about Thailand, and how the country turned around from having a relatively free press to being one of the most restricted in terms of media and public expression. The military junta that took power in the 22 May 2014 coup d’etat has imposed strict bans on media, public and online criticism of government while it overhauls the political system before calling for elections in 2016. Generally, media and citizens have learned to keep within the rules after hundreds were ‘invited’ the the military for ‘attitude adjustment’ – euphemisms for summons and detention. Or maybe, people are just biding their time.

In simple terms, the military dictatorship has established a censorship regime.

This might seem a bit odd when it is considered that the anti-democrats, who paved the way for a military coup and who repeatedly called for military intervention, had plenty of support from the mainstream media. When the coup took place, the same media were not necessarily opposed. Sure, there were differences and the media is not homogeneous, but the mainstream media has repeatedly provided support to anti-democratic cabals and movements.

This is why SEAPA is on shaky ground when it also says that “Media associations in Thailand speak up to the criticism-averse junta to protect their role to deliver information and form public opinion.”

They do, but as we saw just a few days ago, they are also unprepared to support media like Peace TV when it is unfairly closed by the military, even when that red shirt television station was raided by armed soldiers. A prime example is Supan Rakchuea, supposedly “director of rights and freedom department of the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA),” who is reported at Khaosod as urging the junta’s censors and media bullies, the National Broadcasting Telecommunication Commission (NBTC), “to revise its ruling and consider other options for punishing Peace TV.” So far so good, but then Supan supports the junta’s rules: “The NBTC should strictly stick to its procedures…”, and then adds: “As for Peace TV station, they must also bear in mind that although media has freedom, but that freedom must come with responsibility, especially in the time that Thailand needs understanding that will lead to reforms and reconciliation.”

That’s support for the anti-democrats and the military junta. Thailand’s media associations have repeatedly taken positions like this, lacking the principles required to defend media freedom for all.




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