Squeezing media freedom

1 12 2021

Hathai Techakitteranun is Thai PBS World’s deputy editor and has an op-ed on alarming media censorship that’s worth reading.

In a region where media freedom is reducing, RSF said this in its 2021 report:

At least 10 other countries – all marked red or black on the World Press Freedom map, meaning their press freedom situation is classified as bad or very bad – used the pandemic to reinforce obstacles to the free flow of information. Thailand (up 3 at 137th), Philippines (down 2 at 138th), Indonesia (up 6 at 113th) and Cambodia (144th) adopted extremely draconian laws or decrees in the spring of 2020 criminalising any criticism of the government’s actions and, in some cases, making the publication or broadcasting of “false” information punishable by several years in prison.

We find it remarkable that Thailand is “up,” but this may reflect the rapid decline in media freedom elsewhere. Thailand’s “score” places it with a pack of authoritarian states and a couple of monarchies.

As the global sink into authoritarianism rumbles on, Thailand too is getting worse.

Hathai Techakitteranun is Thai PBS World’s deputy editor and has an op-ed on alarming media censorship that’s worth reading. Here’s some clips from the article:

For viewers of foreign media, available through Thai cable TV packages, it has become the norm to see unscheduled messages filling the screen and blocking content for several minutes, a tool used to censor content which may be deemed to be touching upon the highly sensitive [to the regime, monarchy and palace] topic of the monarchy or to be unfavourable to the Thai government.

For most local media, such crude methods are not needed, as they have already opted to self-censor….

… Thailand’s telecom and broadcast regulator, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), already provided a solution last week, by simply “asking” broadcasters to refrain from reporting on the monarchy reform movement and their demands and to refrain from interviewing people on the subject, citing how the act of reporting in and of itself can be interpreted as an attempt to overthrow the country’s constitutional monarchy.

… [M]any foreign journalists based in Thailand have been wording things differently, so that they can remain in the country, but without the freedoms which international media without personnel here still enjoy.

To not report on one of the most significant issues this country has ever faced is simply turning a blind eye to a huge social development, which is currently sharply dividing the country….

A free press, which is essential in any democratic society, means a free society. A press living in fear means a society living in fear. Media freedom is not just about the media. It affects the freedom of speech and the rights to information of all of us.

It is obvious, however, that Thailand is not a democratic society. And, it is clear that the regime is not interested in a free press.


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