SEAPA on the extended state of emergency

8 06 2010

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance has issued a statement on the indefinite extension of the state of emergency in Thailand. SEAPA aptly stated that:

“Though the Thai government has expressed its concern that incendiary messages in the media might threaten national security, it is also worth noting that the state of emergency has a tremendous impact on the free expression situation of Thailand.”

Read the entire statement here: 8 June 2010, “Thai government extends state of emergency”

As PPT posted earlier, the extension of the state of emergency is very concerning. What we now want to know is, how long, Mr. Abhisit, how long will you repress speech and arbitrarily detain those you see as dissident?

SEAPA criticism of lack of freedom of the press

9 05 2010

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) has reported on a recent World Press Freedom Day (3 May) meeting of journalists and other actors in Thailand. They met to discuss what has emerged as a crisis of reporting and censorship in Thailand.  SEAPA’s reported noted that:

“Nevertheless, the critical debate among journalists in the face of the current political crisis is not so much about media’s independence but rather the temptation of taking sides in the on-going conflict, thus increasing the risk of jeopardizing the government’s current peace-building efforts, which also happen to be supported by members of civil society.

Observers of the media’s coverage of the violence-plagued political stand-off that has been going on since the anti-government Red Shirts resumed their street protests in Bangkok on 12 March, noted that media outlets with outright political bias are to be blamed for giving false information and distorted facts about  events and statements of leaders from both sides.

These observers also criticized the government for taking a double-standard approach in controlling information by shutting down the media outlets that either supported or sympathized with the Red Shirt cause, at the same time using the state-owned and -controlled media outlets as a tool to demonize the protesters.”

SEAPA called for ‘balanced reporting,’ which PPT generally supports. However, it is clear that at this moment, balanced reporting necessarily entails a criticism of the frames of understanding which make any kind of stance that is either ‘in the middle’ or ‘objective’ impossible in the Thai context at this moment.

Read the entire report here: 7 May 2010, “Thai media, civil society discuss objectivity in covering on-going political crisis”

SEAPA condemns censorship in Thailand

9 04 2010

Originally published on the newly-re-sited Prachatai English site, PPT reproduces in full the latest statement of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance here. We do so not least in case Prachatai is either blocked again or hacked.


SEAPA troubled by Thailand’s clampdown on TV station, websites; free expression gravely threatened under state of emergency

9 April 2010
“The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) expresses concern over the declaration of a State of Emergency in Bangkok, particularly in how the broad powers granted the military under such a declaration could render the free press and freedom of expression vulnerable to political and security objectives.

Less than 24 hours since Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva ordered placing the Thai capital under a State of Emergency, the government has blocked one satellite channel sympathetic to protesters, and some political oriented websites now deemed a threat to national security. Among those blocked websites is, which is in fact an independent online news website that is known to accommodate a diversity of information and commentary on various topics.

The Thai Journalists Association, a founding member of SEAPA, and the Thailand Cable TV Association have called the actions unconstitutional and in violation of Thais’ rights to press freedom and access to information.

While the State of Emergency Law grants government the power to censor, Article 45 of the 2007 Constitution states in part that “the closure of a newspaper or other mass media business in deprivation of the liberties guaranteed under this section shall not be made”.

SEAPA shares in the Thai media groups’ deep concern for the larger environment for free expression.

The actions taken against both a political station on the one hand, and an independent news operation on another, demonstrates the dangerous latitude the Thai government is allowing itself in determining what can be tolerated and what should be squelched on its claimed path to normalcy.

A free press must be allowed — through independence, diversity, or both — to provide platforms for open, fearless discussions, and even debate. The broad powers granted under a State of Emergency (including power to ban public gatherings of more than five people, censor and ban media from disseminating news deemed inimical to national security and order, and the detention of people without charge for up to 30 days) grant the government and military a blunt weapon that could harm the overall environment for free expression.

If it is left to government and the military to determine what is “good” and “bad” news, commentary, or information, a diversity of views and opinions will inevitably be compromised. As the TJA and TCTVA notes: “The government claimed the blockade of the transmission and blockade of access to the website were done to prevent distortion of information and prevent dissemination of false information to the public. But the government continued to use state-owned radio and TV station to present one-sided information. The government also allowed other radio stations and another satellite TV to present similar content of state media, which could lead to further rifts in the society.”

Indeed, there will be the risk of criminalizing legitimate opinion and debate, which in turn may only aggravate tensions and heighten perceptions of bias, and ironically lead to further disenchantment and division.

SEAPA urges the Thai authorities–and all clashing parties to the current crisis–to spare the media from the prospect of ending up as collateral damage in the unfolding story. Even as the TJA is correct in reminding that the crisis and the Thai people deserve the most responsible and ethical news and commentary that independent media can offer, all sides to the ongoing crisis have an interest in ensuring an environment where independent, diverse, and even opposing views are respected, tolerated, and protected.”

SEAPA is the only regional organization with the specific mandate of promoting and protecting press freedom in Southeast Asia. It is composed of the Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow if Information (ISAI); the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism; the Bangkok-based Thai Journalists Association; and the network’s Kuala Lumpur-based associate member, the Centre for Independent Journalism.

SEAPA on health rumors and repression

7 11 2009

The International Freedom of Expression eXchange (6 November 2009: “Government directions on “rumor-mongering” growing out of proportion, says SEAPA”) has a statement posted from the Southeast Asian Press Alliance. SEAPA has “expressed its concern over a statement made by Information and Communication Technology Minister Ranongrak Suwanchawee threatening to pursue legal action against websites and their respective Internet service providers (ISPs) where posts discussing the King’s health allegedly caused the drop in the Thai bourse in October 2009.”

SEAPA continues, noting that “After failing to back up allegations of stock manipulation, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) is transforming its accusations to one premised generally on ‘rumor mongering’ affecting ‘national security’, with authorities now suspecting a conspiracy to spread false information…”.

Chavarong Limpattamapanee, vice president of the Thai Journalists Association and a SEAPA board member states: “The ICT Minister’s statement itself is a concern because MICT has no authority to close down any website or take actions against ISPs…”.

SEAPA observes that using the “Computer Crimes Act and national security to go against ‘rumor mongers’, the government has already sent a chilling message to the online community and Thais in general. Threats to crack down on ISPs hosting allegedly ‘subversive’ websites at the very least signal an irresponsible wielding of the Computer Crimes law.”

To conclude, SEAPA “calls on the MICT and other authorities to rethink their position on this issue, refrain from abusing the broad provisions of the Computer Crimes Act and desist from threatening citizens’ freedom of expression.”


FCCT Charges Expand

2 07 2009

Lesè majesté charges in relation to speech at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand (FCCT) in 2007 have expanded to include the entire fifteen-person board of the organization.

According to Pravit Rojanaphruk’s article in the Nation (2 July 2009, “FCCT board faces police probe over lese majeste”), “Laksana Kornsilpa, 57, a translator and a critic of ousted and convicted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra filed a lese majeste complaint against the 13-member board at Lumpini police station on Tuesday night. Laksana was quoted on ASTV Manager website as claiming the board’s decision to sell DVD copies of Jakrapob Penkair’s controversial speech at the club back in 2007 constituted an act of lese majeste. She alleged that the whole board “may be acting in an organised fashion and the goal may be to undermine the credibility of the high institution of Thailand.””

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance and the Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH) have issued statements condemning the charges.

PPT also directs your attention to the excellent collections of links and analysis at New Mandala (Nicholas Farrelly, 2 July 2009, “The lese majeste circus continues”) and Bangkok Pundit (1 July 2009, “Lese Majeste Complaint Against the FCCT”)

Perhaps, as one commenter on New Mandala suggests, “This escalation is necessary to push the LM circus into a full and revelatory crisis of absurdity and unsustainability.”  The question remains, however, at what cost? How many lives will be harmed, how much speech repressed, and how many people’s human rights will  be violated before the the crisis becomes revelatory?

SEAPA and TJA statement for World Press Freedom Day

6 05 2009

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2009, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, the Thai Journalist Association, and many other Thai media organizations called for press freedom in the service of reducing violence in Thailand. They call for action to respect press freedom from the government, the media, politicians and the public. Of particular interest, they make the following request of the public:

The public must be considerate in receiving news and information and be open-minded to listen to difference views of the media outlets. They should exercise great caution in receiving information from the media especially those used as tools by political groups, and those issuing biased and prejudiced reports, with the intention of creating rifts and instigate the use of violence in resolving conflicts.”

Read the entire statement here, 5 May 2009, “SEAPA Statement: Government should respect press freedom; media must uphold fairness and accuracy”

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