Voice keeps its voice

27 02 2019

Prachatai reports that the Administrative Court has ruled that the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission was wrong to suspend Voice TV.

It decided that “the moderators of Wake Up News and Tonight Thailand did not cause confusion and division in the general public, even though they offer analysis and criticism against the government agencies and public figures.”

The court found that the NBTC “did not show evidence of damages done by Voice TV.” The court also found that the NBTC attempted to use “reasons” for the ban that were not conveyed to Voice TV and ruled this invalid.

This is something of a breakthrough as, under the military junta, the NBTC has acted as a puppet agency, doing the junta’s bidding and censoring at will. The Administrative Court has now ruled that the NBTC must have evidence for making its political decisions.

Updated: Doubling down on Thaksin II

13 02 2019

Gen Prayudh Chan-ocha reckons his “roles as prime minister and the [Palang Pracharath] PPRP’s prime ministerial candidate are two different things…”. The trouble is he is unable to distinguish between the two and neither can anyone else.

A good example is his continuing use of the media, The Dictator has “insisted he won’t end his role as the host of Sat Phra Racha Su Kan Phatthana Yang Yangyuen, which means “The King’s Philosophy for Sustainable Development”, a television programme that is aired every Friday night.”

Most observers would consider this a clear use of media for promoting the General-Candidate-Dictator. The double standards are obvious to all.

The double standards are further exemplified by his administration’s suspension “of digital TV broadcaster Voice TV for 15 days for allegedly airing provocative content.” Of course, Voice TV is identified by the junta as pro-Thaksin.

The Nation reports that this ban by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission was ordered by NBTC commissioner Lt-General Perapong Manakit who declined “to specify details of the ‘provocative’ content…”. The content “was aired on the Tonight Thailand programme on December 16, as well as on Wakeup News on January 21, 28, 29 and on February 4.” It was mildly critical of the junta.

Criticizing the junta is not allowed, even in an election campaign where the junta has its own party and Gen Prayuth is its candidate for PM.

Prachatai notes that Sirote Klampaiboon, a political analyst for Voice TV, observed:

The closer to the election date, the freer the press should be. But today Voice TV may be suspended for 15 days. The screen will be black, meaning that when you turn on a TV, all of our programs will not be there. I don’t know if there are people in power ordering the involved organization to suspend us, but this is the disgusting use of state power to coerce the people. It is especially so when you want to resume your government, send ministers to set up parties to support their own partisans, and when the PM candidate of Phalang Pracharat has made phone calls to force every TV channel to broadcast one-sided of yours for 5 years.

The Bangkok Post reports that “Voice TV executive Mekin Petplai said the station would petition the Administrative Court, seeking compensation for damages which would total more than 100 million baht.”

The Nation notes that Voice TV “the NBTC over its decision to twice temporarily close down the TV station – in 2014 and in 2017 – and to suspend many of its programmes on 17 other occasions.”

Prachatai reproduces Makin’s press release.

With all the attention to the princess thing, it seems that the junta and its puppets are going for broke in making it less likely that pro-Thaksin parties will do well at the polls.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that the “Thai Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association and the Online News Providers Association said Wednesday the NBTC must exercise its power wisely so as not to impede on freedom of the media.” They called on the NBTC “to review its order suspending Voice TV’s broadcasts for 15 days.”

Sadly, as has often been the case, these associations crawled before power, complaining that “controversial programmes should be dealt with case-by-case…” and “called on the media to act cautiously in reporting political news to ward off criticism they are acting in favour of any particular political parties. Additionally, they need to avoid any reporting or rhetoric that could spur divisions…”.

For years, these associations have unable to demand media freedom without spineless caveats.

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.

A yellow Thongbai should be red-faced

7 11 2010

Thongbai Thongpao was once a respected human rights lawyer who gained considerable credit by taking on difficult cases. It is indeed sad to see that, when he adopted a yellow-shirt to attack Thaksin Shinawatra, he seems to have thrown aside notions of fairness and logic. His most recent column in the Bangkok Post is positively embarrassing. It is embarrassing enough to get him a seat on the Constitutional Court.

Thongbai seems ticked off that Thailand’s ranking has dropped precipitately this past year in the world press freedom index. All Thongbai can mutter is that this fall beggars belief and “calls into question the validity of the survey.” By questioning the index in this way, Thongbai aligns himself with a bunch of despots and their cheer squads worldwide.

He gets his racist hat on to assert: “What the ranking tells us is that press freedom in Thailand is scant when measured against the yardstick of the West.” In fact, this statement seems ignorant of the headline comments made by Reporters Without Borders when releasing the index, when they drew attention specifically to failures and backsliding in Europe.

Worse is to come. Ignorance and slothfulness, for example, when Thongbai states: “I have not been able to learn the criteria used for compiling the index.” Perhaps he might have looked at the page that appears next to the index, here. Maybe Thongbai found the term “methodology” somehow misleading. Maybe he was just to lazy or ignorant to look for it. Or perhaps he knows it is there and is simply making things up.

He adds: “The plunge is attributed, rather simplistically, to the killings of two journalists and the injuries of some fifteen others during their field coverage of the clashes between the red shirt protesters and security forces in Bangkok in April and May.” That is simplistic. It seems having 17 journalists injured is unworthy of consideration.

Where has human rights lawyer Thongbai had his head buried of late? At best, if we are being polite, his comment is tasteless. It is “downright unfair,” he says, to factor in deaths of journalists. If that were the case, the Philippines would leap several dozen places. In fact, the journalists are themselves to blame for getting killed and injured by trying to get stories from conflict areas! Remember that Thongbai remains a self-described human rights lawyer….

Then human rights lawyer Thongbai prattles on about how great Thai laws are regarding human rights: “Without doubt, Thai laws provide for full respect of human rights, certainly no less than in Europe and the US. There is not a single law that condones restrictions on the freedom of the press…”.

Like Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, Thongbai is disingenuously and stupidly claiming that press freedom is second to none in Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Thailand. In fact, he goes even further, shouting: “Freedom of the broadcast media in Thailand these days is vast and almost limitless.” Sounding downright pleased about the coup, he claims that the 2006 coup did not impact media freedom “in any significant way.”

The best way for an index to be constructed “should be based on an evaluation of the extent to which a country’s laws limit press freedom.” He seems to not give a hoot about the implementation of the laws or the enactment and implementation of laws that directly oppose any laws that are supposed to support media freedom. Thaksin’s regime, which was criticized extensively by Thongbai, would have looked good by Thongbai’s mindless calculations.

We will not sit idly by and watch as our hard-fought freedoms are taken away. We will mount a resistance without prompting from any international organisation.

We cannot think of a dumber commentary on media freedom for several years. When he says: “No form of witchhunt or suppression of the media will be tolerated in Thailand,” you see what he has become. “Dumb” is too polite, for what Thongbai is doing is throwing aside decades of good work in order to be a propagandist for a regime that has done more to restrict the media than any government for years.

Updated: NYT on Chiranuch’s case

2 11 2010

The New York Times has a story on Chiranuch Premchaiporn‘s situation, with the attention-grabbing headline “Fighting for Press Freedom in Thailand.” Most of the details will already be known to regular PPT readers. However, a couple of issues can be reiterated.

First, Chiranuch states that when she was arrested: “I began to feel victimized, and I hate that…. When you are arrested it shows that you have a lack of power. I felt I was too weak for them, and I was an easy target. I don’t like to be an easy target.” In fact, the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime selects “easy targets,” but also appears to be selective about making these arrests and charges have broad political impact. That is why they are victimizing Chiranuch and Prachatai.

Second, the NYT makes an important point for the broader international media when it states: “Ms. Chiranuch’s case has become a rallying cry for opponents of Mr. Abhisit’s campaign of censorship and has drawn criticism from human rights and free speech advocacy groups abroad.” It is important to emphasize that it is Abhisit who is responsible for the “campaign of censorship” and the broader based repression of his political opposition. He may be a pawn being moved by higher up players, but he is personally invested, personally angry at his opponents and personally responsible for the actions of his government and its security forces. The international media needs to specifically condemn Abhisit’s authoritarianism.

Third, Ubonrat Siriyuwasak, a media scholar recently retired from Chulalongkorn University is cited. She says:  “At first glance it looks to a lot of people as if there is still freedom of the press…. But if we take a closer look, we have to conclude that this is a serious situation because opposition opinion has been in a sense wiped out or must go underground.” That point should be emphasized. This regime has, as the NYT points out, dragged Thailand back to a dark ages of censorship and repression.

Finally, Chiranuch says: “Even if I quit [at Prachatai], the threat would not stop. The process continues.” That process is the censorship and repression that the current regime maintains and deepens by the day. The brave few who openly and trenchantly oppose it deserve international support while Abhisit and his government deserve condemnation.

Update: Bangkok Pundit has an excellent commentary on this story.

Thailand dives lower on press freedom index

21 10 2010

It should be no surprise to anyone to read in The Nation that “Thailand has slipped 23 places to the ranking of 153rd on the press freedom index…”. The 2010 World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) ranked Thailand between Azerbaijan at 152 and Belarus at 154. RWB states: “Political violence has produced some very troubling tumbles in the rankings. Thailand (153rd) – where two journalists were killed and some fifteen wounded while covering the army crackdown on the “red shirts” movement in Bangkok – lost 23 places…”. Read more from RWB on Thailand here.

Despite claims to the contrary from Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, there can be no sane denial of the facts. The control of the media in Thailand and the regime of censorship in place is reminiscent of that under military regimes.

Readers may recall Kasit’s laughable comment at the Asia Society recently: Thailand is open and freedom of the press “is second to none in the world!” He also pleaded for no more rankings of Thailand, perhaps knowing how badly the country is going to look on politics and freedom indicators.

Or perhaps Abhisit’s remarkable comments at the Council for Foreign Relations, as PPT reported them: Thailand, he said, has plenty of space for opposition opinion. Indeed, “much, much more space than we’ve seen for quite some time…”. He quickly added that this doesn’t apply to red shirt media, which he says is political propaganda for the red shirts…. Of course, Abhisit uses the “they incite violence” line, while ignoring yellow-shirt media…. He says nothing of the silencing and blocking of media that does not incite violence or hatred, such as Prachatai. Abhisit answers another question by saying that when there is censorship of all the red shirt media, “the situation is a lot calmer.” And that is the point. Abhisit and his supporters and backers want to silence the opposition.

If Abhisit and Kasit really do believe that Thailand’s media freedom “is second to none in the world!” then the country is in serious trouble , being run by people who do not understand freedom and democracy.

RWB on emergency law and reporting

23 04 2010

Reporters Without Borders has issued a statement expressing extreme concern “about the impact on press freedom of the political violence and state of emergency in Thailand and reiterates its appeal to all parties to respect and guarantee the work of the press.” It adds that the “gravity of this crisis reinforces the need to respect the free flow of news and information, without which rumour will triumph over fact…”.

The statement refers to a Japanese cameraman injured in the Silom bombings and to foreign journalists “injured by stones and water bottles thrown by participants in political demonstrations.”

RWB “deplores the decision by the ‘Red Shirts’ to ask journalists to wear a green armband with the words ‘Dissolve parliament’…” printed on it. The organization also “condemns the harassment to which TV journalist Thapanee Letsrichai has been subjected since reporting on Twitter that some soldiers had prevented the police from going after those who may have been responsible for yesterday’s bombings.” See a video on this here.

RWB expresses surprise that courts uphold the “government’s censorship of PTV,” a red shirt station and a similar decision against “legal action brought by Chiranuch [Premchaiporn], the editor of the independent news website Prachatai, against several senior government officials demanding damages because the site has been blocked since 7 April and demanding the lifting of the blocking order on the grounds that it is illegal under article 45 of the constitution, which protects the dissemination of information and opinions. The court ruled that the authorities had not exceeded their powers under the state of emergency.” Censorship and intimidation “are affecting the Internet and the list of banned websites is growing even longer.”

RWB urged the Abhisit Vejjajiva government “to restore access to the censored websites” and to “close media only after verifying that they contain calls for violence and after following the normal judicial procedures.”

Thai authorities were also required “to show the utmost transparency in the investigation into the death [on 10 April] of Japanese journalist Hiro Muramoto, the findings of which are supposed to be released on 26 April.”

Bangkok Pundit, The Nation’s surprize and succession

30 10 2009

PPT has to give plaudits to Bangkok Pundit today. As many readers will have noticed, BP has moved to Asian Correspondent, and for a while that created some confusion and missing links. PPT is pleased to say that these teething problems seem to have been sorted out.

Among BP’s latest posts are two that are of special interest for PPT.

The first post is one PPT was about to write. Like us, BP is flabbergasted that The Nation has come up with an editorial that is measured, serious and important. Given its recent track record of xenophobia, an ability to simply make things up and a tendency to be the English-language mouthpiece for the craziest of speculative stories at ASTV/Manager, The Nation deserves credit for its editorial “Media under siege in Southeast Asia” (30 October 2009).

PPT had a post that related to this coverage of the Press Freedom Index a week ago, but we have to say that The Nation does a good job. Some examples of sharp observations in the editorial: “The annual Press Freedom Index for 2009, released earlier this month by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), makes for disturbing reading for the Asean region. People in Southeast Asia must ask if we’re sacrificing long-term democracy and freedom for short-term security and stability.” On Thailand, this, which we reproduce at length:

“Thailand, at number 130, has regretfully joined the ranks of Singapore (133) and Malaysia (131), which are traditionally known for their control of the press.

The Kingdom was ranked at number 66 only seven years ago. It has fallen so spectacularly because of the curbing of press freedom by ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his supporters, then by the military junta which ousted Thaksin, and now by the Democrat-led government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, which cracked down mightily on the so-called “red” media in the aftermath of the April riots this year.

Then there is the lese majeste law, used with increased frequency as His Majesty advances in age. As RSF notes: ‘The Thai media has been buffeted by repeated political crises. Several journalists have been assaulted by demonstrators, and scores of media have been censored for openly supporting the red shirts.’

But it has been the crackdown on Internet users and intellectuals – for alleged crimes of lese-majeste – that poses the greatest threat to free expression in the country: ‘Most Thai journalists voice the same reverence for King Bhumibol as the vast majority of the population. The others are forced into self-censorship.’

Indeed, the Index might do well to rethink the direction Thailand and most of Asean is heading, especially when we can’t fall much lower than this.”

Well said. Let’s hope this is a sign of a more tolerant and principled stand at The Nation.

The second post is on succession. PPT has several posts on this topic, so we won’t go over them again, but BP draws our attention to a letter that we missed, sent to the Asia Times Online about a week ago. In it, Vimon Kidchob, the Director-General of the Department of Information at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who PPT also cited yesterday on a different story, has a letter dated 23 October 2009. Here is what he says, responding to an article on succession by Shawn Crispin:

Shawn W Crispin’s article (Thailand mulls royal succession, October 19) raises a few issues that need to be clarified. First, it tries to make the issue of royal succession in Thailand a mysterious one, full of questions and uncertainty. There is, in fact, nothing to speculate about. Those knowledgeable about Thailand would know that there are clearly stipulated rules, both in the Palace Law on Succession and the Thai constitution regarding the issue. Indeed, the relevant provisions in the current constitution – similar to previous ones, including the 1997 constitution – lay out the specific roles of the Privy Council, National Assembly and cabinet.

Second, the Thai lese-majeste law is not accurately understood. As part of the country’s criminal code, the law is there to protect the monarchy which is one of the Thailand’s principal institutions and integral to the country’s national security. It is necessary also because Thai law and convention do not provide for the monarchy to take legal action against the people nor allow them to act in their own defense. While the Criminal Procedure Code allows anyone who finds a suspected lese-majeste act to lodge a complaint, such a complaint must be handled in accordance with due legal process. To ensure its proper enforcement, the government is also in the process of providing clearer guidelines on its application. As it is though, the law is not aimed at curbing freedom of speech and expression nor the legitimate exercise of academic freedom including the debates about the monarchy as an institution. Amidst the on-going intense political differences, apparent attempts to politicize the monarchy for political ends seem to have unduly gained momentum. Those who follow developments in the country are therefore asked to be more careful in differentiating facts from rumors.

The comments on succession are worth reading. Those on lese majeste are another example of Vikom’s fairy tales (presumably demanded of him by the Abhisit government), reproducing statements that have long been shown to be false. Especially significant is the lie that “the law is not aimed at curbing freedom of speech and expression nor the legitimate exercise of academic freedom including the debates about the monarchy as an institution.” There are several pending and convicted cases that PPT tries to track that unambiguously demonstrate that the lese majeste law and the computer crimes act are specifically used to limit freedom of speech and expression. Every Thai knows this and any foreigner who maintains more than a passing interest in Thailand knows it too.

More on Jom Petpradap and media freedom

13 09 2009

The Nation (13 September 2009: “Fearless amid the fury”) has an interesting feature on Jom Petpradap, who was the journalist who did the controversial live interview with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on 6 September on MCOT. PTT recently posted on his response to the Democrat Party’s chief censor Sathit Wongnongtoey here. PPT’s earlier post on the interview is here. We recommend this article in The Nation for the details on the case and Jom’s earlier brushes with authorities that prefer to censor the media.

At last, some support for media freedom

9 09 2009

At last! The Bangkok Post finally has an editorial that supports media freedom (9 September 2009: “Minister fires before he aims”). This might be its third try on the MCOT-Thaksin interview in the Post’s opinion columns, but this editorialist has seen the threat posed by Democrat Party Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey. Sure, it could have been made broader, noting Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s authoritorian slide, but we need to give kudos when it is due.

Yes, the “government’s response to the rather bland interview with fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra is disappointing.” Yes, Minister Sathit “clearly put pressure on the interviewer who worked with state-run MCOT.” And yes, this “is a terrible example to the country, and yet another poor message to all friends of Thailand overseas.”

More importantly, as PTT has been saying in recent posts, the “minister’s attack on the programme reveals a two-faced policy on freedom of the press by this government, and most previous ones.”

Sathit’s claim that the Thaksin interview endangers peace “does not hold water.” It is true that Sathit is not acting as a minister who should ensure media freedom but as a partisan censor “… and faithful Democrat Party member…”. And, as the Post notes, this is not the first time.

The MCOT is “not an arm of the government propaganda machine. Its TV and radio stations should present news and information based on the interest of the public.”

PPT doesn’t agree with everything in the editorial, but we are pleased that, at last,serious attention is being given to this government’s media manipulation.

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