Cracking the media

20 09 2021

Thailand’s regime is seeking to limit reporting on the actions of its police against demonstrators. Recent actions against the media are reported here, here, here, here, and here.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand has issued a statement, reproduced in full:

FCCT STATEMENT ON THAI POLICE THREAT TO ARREST JOURNALISTS COVERING PROTESTS

The professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand wishes to express its deep concern over a threat by the Royal Thai Police to arrest journalists caught covering protests after the 9pm curfew.

The police have issued a list of preconditions for journalists to obtain permission to report on the protests, which some will be unable to meet. The police want journalists to provide them with a letter requesting coverage after the curfew, stamped by the Metropolitan Police, a copy of a PRD press card, and a letter of assignment from their news agency asking for post-curfew reporting.

This is an onerous set of requirements for what should be routine media work. Some legitimate journalists do not have PRD-issued press cards, and some freelancers cannot get all these documents. It is unacceptable that journalists should face the threat of arrest and prosecution while doing their jobs, simply because they cannot meet all these bureaucratic conditions.

The FCCT urges the police to review their rules for post-curfew reporting, and to recognise that there are genuine journalists reporting on the streets who may not be able to get all the documents they are asking for, and who should not be arrested face any criminal charges.

17 September 2021





Trampling remaining freedoms I

30 07 2021

Earlier this month, six of the country’s media associations called upon the regime to reconsider the new media measures, worried that they would be use “to censor media coverage and infringe on the public’s freedom of expression.”

Those demands were not just ignored, but Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, as premier, has instructed “relevant authorities to strictly enforce the new measures against the media, influencers and social media figures, among others.” As a result, the associations concluded:

1. The Prime Minister’s insistence on enforcing the new measures, along with the recent attempts by his government to intimidate and take legal action against members of the public who simply exercise their constitutional rights to criticize the administration during the Covid-19 pandemic, clearly reveal an intent to crack down on the freedom of expression enjoyed by the media and the public.

2. The government’s assertion that the new measures are necessary to tackle what it terms “fake news” shows its refusal to acknowledge the administration’s failure in its communications with the public….

3. We call upon all professionals in the media and news agencies to stand in unison and oppose the government’s new measures. We also urge the media establishment to take utmost care to ensure that their news coverage is accurate and compliant with the highest journalistic standards — in order to deny the government any excuse to interfere with media operations, which will in turn affect the public’s right to information.

The regime’s response is to “double … down in its campaign against so-called ‘fake news’, shrugging off complaints by Thai media organisations…”. Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakmanusorn said “the anti-fake news committee has set up a special working group to combat misinformation on social media via administrative, tax and social measures.”

Essentially, the regime has “barred media from disseminating [so-called] fake or distorted news and news that could stir fear regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, effective from today (Friday), with a threat of censorship if violations are made.”

Gen Prayuth has “signed the restriction order, which was published in the Royal Gazette yesterday. According to the order, the media are banned from publishing and broadcasting information that incites fear or with intent to twist the information and cause confusion, which may affect national security and stability.” In other words, the regime has given itself the power to ban all reporting and social media commentary it does not like.

Like the dark days under military dictatorships of previous decades, the regime is deliberately vague in its definitions so as to instill fear:

Fears for journalists and news organizations are real and the consequences of the new decree can be existential. News organizations must now navigate—not only a vaguely worded definition of what is considered fake news—but a hostile regulatory environment where an array of agencies could be actively targeting them in a bid to silence legitimate critique of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thai journalists, who often work long hours for low pay, could be swayed by the possibility of a lengthy prison term and a substantial fine. Self-censorship among journalists … is likely to increase.

Most worrisome for news editors is the second guessing that might accompany editorial decision-making on pandemic-related news or information that is critical of the government. A severe consequence is that the government clearly wants to silence and penalize any news organization or journalist that publishes information that runs contrary to the government’s sensibilities—even if the information has been verified and deemed wholly accurate.

The regime’s “new decree doesn’t differentiate between the truth and fake news…”.

Cod Satrusayang states that this is “the move of a desperate government that has lost much of its legitimacy and all of its trust with the people that it has failed.” He continues:

This is Prayut now, defeated but still defiant (or perhaps oblivious) to the truth. We should not expect any better because this was a government that seized power through a military coup. It is run by military men – incapable of any governance that relies on consent and not conscription. This latest move shows the Thai military is not one of strength but subjugation.

We, the media and the people, can and must resist this latest proclamation.

The decree, he says, is Orwellian. Sadly, it is far worse than that. A desperate regime appears willing to do everything it can to stay in power, trampling freedoms and again standing on the bodies of the innocent dead.





With 3 updates: The Dictator’s response I

21 10 2020

The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, is tone deaf. So hard of political hearing that he’s doubling down against the students and other protesters, seemingly prepared to risk clashes and extreme violence.

Voice TV has been defiant on the court ordered shutdown. But Gen Prayuth has ordered state authorities to crackdown hard, especially on anti-monarchy statements and images, stating: “We are duty-bound to protect the country and eliminate ill-intentioned actions aimed at creating chaos and conflict in the country…”. He’s talking about the monarchy.

In a piece of good news, and in an act that goes against the judiciary’s pro-authoritarian bent, the Criminal Court on Wednesday “repealed a government order to close down a TV channel [Voice TV] who’s been broadcasting live coverage of the student-led protests…”.

Voice TV “representatives argued to the court that the shutdown order breached the constitutional protection of media freedom…. The argument was accepted by the court, who noted that the order did not cite any clear wrongdoing.”

But other parts of the judicial system acted against democracy. Many will have seen reports that several of those arrested had been bailed. Not so fast. A Bangkok Post report states:

Two protest leaders, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, were taken to the Criminal Court on Wednesday as Bangkok police pressed charges against them for their part in an anti-government rally at Sanam Luang on Sept 19.

Samran Rat police took the two pro-democracy activists from the Region 1 Border Patrol Police camp in Pathum Thani province to the court, ariving around 10.50am on Wednesday.

The two Thammasat University students were released on bail by Thanyaburi court on Tuesday afternoon, before police took them to the Region 1 Border Patrol Police camp in Khlong Luang district.

Mr Parit and Ms Panusaya were also wanted on arrest warrants from other police stations for their roles in anti-government rallies in Bangkok and other provinces.

In other words, the police and regime can continue to keep them on political ice.

More than this, the arrest continue, even in the fake case of “royal endangerment.” Suranat Paenprasert, a coordinator for children’s welfare and anti-drug advocacy group “Active Youth,” was charged with Article 110 of the Criminal Codes, which bans committing acts of violence against the Queen or [h]er [l]iberty.” It is a fit up, but the regime want to raise the temperature of ultra-royalists, while removing activists.

Meanwhile, the royalists are getting organized, with support from the state. Seeing the students and other protesters as “misled” and “duped” – terms also use when denigrating red shirts – Warong Dechgitvigrom warned of “the plot”: “pro-democracy protesters’ demands were not legitimate, especially those concerning the monarchy.” And, he added that there were hidden backers: “group leaders did not want to show themselves to avoid legal action.”

Helping him out, “Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin yesterday spoke about his Facebook post urging people in Chon Buri to exercise their power to protect the monarchy.” That’s a call to action and probably arms.

The state is now actively engaged in mobilizing royalists. The Bangkok Post reports:

Crowds estimated to number in the tens of thousands led by local administrators gathered in several in provinces on Wednesday in a show of loyalty to the royal institution.

The royalist demonstrations, staged in response to recent calls by some student protesters for reform of the monarchy, took place in provinces including Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Lampang, Nan, Narathiwat and Songkhla….

Similar gatherings were planned in provinces before the end of this month.

Bangkok Post: An estimated 20,000 yellow-clad people march in Sungai Kolok district of Narathiwat on Wednesday morning to show their loyalty to the royal institution. (Photo by Waedao Harai). The Post always downplays and vastly underestimates the size of student rallies.

The states involvement is a dangerous turn of events and The Dictator seems to be digging in. We are not sure that can save him. How desperate can he become?

Update 1: The Bangkok Post appears to be aiding the regime. One of its latest “stories” is about continuing protests and the ultra-royalist marches mentioned above. It reports that “authorities are worried about possible clashes between the two groups in the future.” Again, the post goes full ultra by not pointing out that it is the authorities who are mobilizing the royalists. Indeed, many of those who marched were in civil service uniforms! The Post, by playing dumb, is aiding and abetting any violence that the state unleashes.

Update 2: The Nation makes it clear that the royalists were mainly officials.

Update 3: Social media reports that the first attacks on protesters by yellow shirted royalists took place at Ramkhamhaeng University around 5-6pm today.





Voice TV back

16 02 2019

In an unexpected decision, Prachatai reports that “the Administrative Court ruled to delay the NBTC’s [National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission] suspension order. Voice TV can continue broadcasting during election campaigns until the trial is concluded.”

It made the interim decision based on a Voice TV injunction filed “on the ground that NBTC’s suspension order is unreasonable and unlawful, and that there will be negative repercussions if the Court does not grant them injunction, both for the public and for Voice TV itself.”

The Administrative Court appears to find the “NBTC suspension order is most likely unlawful…”.

That’s good news for media freedom, even if the case is not finished.





Commentary on the junta’s rigged election I

19 10 2018

There have been several recent articles on the junta’s rigged election. We will look at some of these in this and further posts.

PPT kind of liked a piece at Deutsche Welle that begins with a statement of fact that has been neglected by other media: “Thailand’s military government says it wants to hold elections early next year, after the generals cemented their control over the state and its institutions.”

Academic Wolfram Schaffar says there’s “growing discontent even among sections that have been traditionally close to the military” over its repeated failure to keep its promises on elections and to stick in power.

We are not convinced that the 2014 military coup was “met with widespread approval,” or that the DW characterization of the period prior to the coup is accurate.

It is on stronger ground when quoting Schaffar as saying that the “military took over not to repair democracy, but to stay in power indefinitely…”, or at least to ensure that no real electoral democracy emerged.

It notes the rigging of the rules via an anti-democratic constitution, approved in a rigged referendum where “all sorts of restrictions were imposed, including barring any public discussion over the constitution as well as curtailing the freedom of expression, assembly and the press.”

The resulting rules mean “a weakening of the Thai parliament and strengthened the hand of the prime minister.” Schaffar says the “military is now closely intertwined with the country’s political bodies and institutions…”.

He correctly observes that the “next elections will not be free and fair.”

DW also notes that the “military stands above everything and will likely retain its dominant position…”. It also notes the unfairness of the current regime that campaigns for elections while banning its opponents from organizing and campaigning.

Free election? No. Fair election? No.





Neutering media

21 08 2017

The military dictatorship has generally been able to neuter the media. It got rid of most of the red shirt media soon after the 2014 military coup. It has then managed and manipulated the media. Initially, this did not require much effort as the mainstream media cheered the coup.

As the regime has gone on and on, some elements of the media have become just a little more critical of the junta’s nepotism, corruption, political repression and so on. The Dictator has shouted orders at journalists on those many occasions where he has felt the media should be doing more for his regime.

Most recently, as widely reported, the regime has been doing a little more to direct the media:

The government has ordered all television channels to promote the work of its ministers in an effort the head of its public relations division said was meant to take the focus off the prime minister.

Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the government spokesman who heads its Public Relations Department, said Thursday that he ordered each channel assigned to different ministers because he did not want the coverage to focus only on the prime minister.

“I didn’t force them. I let them choose freely but each channel must do differently,” he said after word got out and the effort was slammed as state-mandated propaganda. “Some channels even asked me to choose for them, but I didn’t because I know each channel has a different interest.”

It should be no surprise that most media enthusiastically signed up.

Dissent in the media is difficult under a military regime. One example of rare but consistent dissent by a journalist has seen Pravit Rojanaphruk who is now being punished by the military junta. He says:

It never occurred to me that what I write could be seditious.

Under military rule, criticizing the junta on social media can be construed as an act of sedition, however.

I learned this the hard way when police rang me up at the end of last month, informing me that I had been charged with sedition for a number of my Facebook postings.

That this is yet another fit-up. Each of Pravit’s posts was critical of the military junta. Yes, criticizing the junta constitutes sedition in totalitarian Thailand.

Pravit comments on the junta’s charges:

… no one really knows what constitutes sedition under military rule makes this a chilling effect and ensures greater self-censorship of anything critical of the junta in social media, however. The hazier the boundaries of what constitutes sedition, the more effective they become in instilling fear.

It may also be baffling that people who criticize the military junta, which usurped and continues to usurp power from the people, are the ones being charged with sedition. Control is more effective when fear is induced by logic-defying situations because one suspends disbelief of the illogical and absurd in Juntaland Thailand any longer. When right is wrong, wrong is right and might is right, rationality no longer gives guidance. We live not under the rule of law but under rule by arbitrary law of the junta. And logic is not necessary. Just obey. In fact, to obey without logically asking why or questioning the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of the military regime, makes control effective. Just obey. Don’t ask what’s wrong with the order imposed upon us.

On the future and on dissent, he declares:

It’s a privilege and an honor to defend freedom of expression on social media during the past three years. It is also an honor to be singled out among the select few Thais who have stood up and effectively disturbed the make-believe world of Juntaland Thailand.

We cannot defend freedom of expression if we are not willing to pay the price. The price is worth paying when one takes the long-term benefits of society to heart.





Press freedom declines further

20 04 2016

We all know that the junta has tried to manage the media more than most recent regimes in Thailand. Press freedom has been wound back since the 2014 military coup, and according to Reporters Without Borders and its World Press Freedom Index, the situation worsened even further in 2015.

RWB rank 2015





Media freedom? Don’t even think about it!

1 04 2016

Many readers will already know that Khaosod journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk has been prevented from attending UNESCO’s 2016 World Press Freedom Day conference in Finland.

In fact, as reported by the International Press Institute, “Thailand’s ruling military junta has banned a prominent journalist from leaving the country” to attend the conference.

Because Pravit has been called in for “re-education” and “attitude adjustment” by the military thugs, he has lost his freedom to travel, and must request the military junta’s permission to travel. He submitted a request and the junta rejected it.censorship-1

According to one report, cited by IPI, a junta mouthpiece said Pravit “keeps violating the orders of the NCPO in many ways, so his travel is not approved.” What they mean is that he continues to try to publish stories that are accurate of Thailand’s current sorry state. As the cause of this state, the military dictatorship becomes flustered, angry and vindictive over his reporting.

Finland’s ambassador to Thailand, Kristi Westphalen, stated that she “regretted the Thai government’s decision…”. By “government” she means the military dictatorship. IPI Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen said the ban was “highly symbolic of the Thai military regime’s increasing disregard for free expression.” We are not sure the “disregard” is increasing. The junta hates any media outlet that doesn’t follow its every order and that is unable divine what might next have The Dictator in a tizzy.

Thailand is a military dictatorship and a military state. No one should expect it junta to be anything other than intolerant, repressive, downright nasty and worse.





Revised: Warning the conservative elite I

1 03 2016

In an editorial at The Korean Herald, Thailand’s conservative elite gets a warning on media freedom. The editorial begins:

Thai policy makers, dictators, military leaders or what have you, have never learned how to handle criticism from the international press and the recently issued regulation for foreign media reflects that long-standing mindset.

The junta’s demand is that:

foreign media representatives must demonstrate their attitude towards the monarchy and political development in the country – eats into one’s personal space…. It is like the government is trying to delve into the heart and soul of a person and make it a requirement before they be granted visa and permit to work in the kingdom.

The military dictatorship is seeking to “prevent negative reporting about Thailand.” The editorial observes that “to try to engineer this outcome is somewhat absurd…”.

It continues:

A free and independent media environment generates a positive atmosphere for the country.

But sadly, Thai policy makers, especially the current junta, do not have the sophistication to deal with criticism. So the bottom line of this absurd regulation is that if you’re not going to be nice to me, I’m not going to let you live here.

Sadly, when the editorial states, “We really hope that is a temporary thing and that soon the authorities will come to their senses, and realize that what they are doing will cause more harm than good,” we think they misunderstand the junta and its backers. When it comes to the monarchy and maintaining elite rule, there’s no sense, just nonsense.





Media freedom?

10 10 2013

PPT was quite surprised when reading a story at The Nation, purported to be one in a series commemorating the 14 October 1973 uprising, which stated:

AFTER THE October 14, 1973 student uprising, journalists successfully campaigned for the abrogation of an anti-press-freedom law.

Forty years have passed since then and all the draconian laws seen as inhibiting press freedoms have been abolished – but is the press really enjoying full freedom?

The story goes on to say a little about the fight to end state control of the media and the rise of business control. Little is said about the continuing state and military ownership, apart from a comment about state control through advertising budgets.

But where is comment about the lese majeste and computer crimes laws?112.jpg

More than any other law, Article 112 is a deadweight on the media, forcing remarkable self-censorship. No journalist wants to go to jail for 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years, so they and their bosses self-censor and censor.

The lese majeste law is also a deadweight on discussion more broadly, whether it is social media, academic debate or private discussions.

Surely any discussion of “draconian laws” must mention the political use of lese majeste and computer crimes or is even discussion of media freedom to be self-censored?








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