Training the media

6 05 2016

Thailand’s mainstream media has played a significant role in bringing down elected governments. In 2013 and 2014, many in the mainstream media cheered the anti-democrats and applauded the military’s coup.

At the time of the coup, the junta closed almost all of the media outlets that supported those it considered its opponents. Red shirt media has essentially disappeared. The anti-democrat media mostly continues.

For this military regime, however, any criticism is considered dangerous, so even the tame media causes The Dictator and his thugs to prickle and complain.

World Press Freedom celebrations from 2 to 4 May are best thought of as a memorial of things past in Thailand. Even so, reporters and editors, some of whom campaigned for the 2014 coup, came out on 3 May to meekly appeal for more media freedom and less censorship in Thailand. They made their appeal to The Dictator himself, the media hating General Prayuth Chan-ocha. That meeting went just about as one would have expected it to go.

Prachatai reports that “Wanchai Wongmeechai, chairman of the Thai Journalists’ Association (TJA), together with representatives from the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA) and TJA attempted to hand a statement to Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, at the Government House on Tuesday, 3 May 2016, the World Press Freedom Day.” The Dictator’s staff prevented this.

The General did ask why they were at Government House and “Wanchai told him that they were commemorating the World Press Freedom Day by advocating for media freedom.” The Dictator responded, saying he thought the media had sufficient freedom.

When asked if the junta would revoke Orders No. 97 and 103 that limit media freedom, Prayuth “said that if such orders are revoked additional orders have to be issued to replace them instead for the sake of national security and peace.”

The Dictator was even clearer when, as reported in Khaosod, Yuwadee Thanyasiri, a senior reporter who has covered Government House for more than 30 years, declared: “Freedom of the press is freedom of the people.” Prayuth seemed incensed. He demanded to know who spoke these words. Yuwadee owned up and the General pointed at her saying: “Watch yourself.”

That’s the nature of the military dictatorship.