The BBC dancing with the junta

7 04 2017

PPT has posted on stories about the BBC and its dance with Thailand’s dictators. There were the lese majeste rattlings, then Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa’s fit-up lese majeste case for reposting a BBC Thai story that has now been was read by more than three million people. And who can forget the “failed” negotiations on the transmitter.

The Bangkok Post reports that the dictator’s dance has become a little more complicated, requiring what we hope is fancy footwork.

The Post reports that the Beeb “is ready to move forward as a digital news content provider in Thailand and it is also ready to adjust its work culture to suit Thai laws and audiences…”. That’s Francesca Unsworth, “director of the BBC World Service Group and the BBC’s deputy director of news and current affairs…”.

Sounds like self-censorship is the next dictator’s waltz. But then she adds: “But we still need to serve all audiences in a way that we feel they are best served. We have to find a balanced operating environment.”

A two-step? Unsworth had one dance with with deputy junta spokesman Lt. Gen. Werechon Sukhondhapatipak. He spun her around with talk of the “lessons arising from incidents that prove sensitive for Thais…”.

To be honest, we have no idea what he’s babbling about, but when he states: “I think we can form common ground where we can work together,” anyone interested in the BBC and a free media should be very, very worried.

The General stated: “We now have communication channels through which [the BBC] can verify or check comments from the government so the stories will be balanced and well-rounded.”

Really? That sound dangerously like manipulating the news to suit a military dictatorship. Would the BBC stoop to such low levels? Well, yes, it has bent to governments in the past, but usually prides itself on editorial independence. Fortunately, Unsworth “insisted the BBC team would stick to its strong editorial values to tell the truth accurately, impartially and reporting from all sides.”

At the same time, Unsworth twirled around the BBC as business conundrum: “It [Thai market] is important to us. It’s a big country, it’s a very vibrant country. It’s a young country and they say the 21st Century belongs to Asia. So it is important for us to be in Asian markets…”. We can hear the self-censors and corporate bosses sharpening their scissors to cut content when markets are “threatened.”

When Unsworth says that “Thailand already have very lively local media scenes in newspaper, broadcasting and increasingly in digital space,” you have to wonder which Thailand she is in and which band she’s listening to.

Hopefully the BBC two-step is a way of allowing the dictators to save face and that adequate to good journalism will be the BBC’s future when reporting on Thailand, including reporting on lese majeste, the monarch and the monarchy.





Be very, very careful

28 11 2016

A reader sent PPT a link to a report by an Australian journalist based in Bangkok and presented at the ABC’s Correspondent’s Report on the weekend. It’s an audio report that comes with this introduction at the website:

The death of Thailand’s revered King last month will be remembered as a turning point in the country’s history.

It’s also a topic that’s difficult to cover as a journalist, given Thailand’s extremely harsh laws against royal defamation.

A new official version of the royal anthem, sung by tens of thousands of Thais outside the palace, is the latest talking point.

Our South-East Asia correspondent, Liam Cochrane, reports from Bangkok.

There’s still some blarney in the report yet it is mainly about lese majeste censorship and self-censorship associated with monarchy, the Crown Property Bureau, the late king and Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. The fear the journalist feels is palpable.





Facebook in bed with dictators

5 05 2016

The header seems to reflect a situation where the multinational advertising portal Facebook has jumped into bed in support of the military dictatorship’s censorship, blocking กูkult in Thailand. Yes, we know Facebook is meant to be about messaging and posting junk, but it seems that, in one case it has censored in Thailand, probably because the junta asked.

More worryingly, it raises further questions about how the junta gained access to the accounts of the Facebook 8.

Blaming Facebook may seem a bit premature,it was Facebook itself that “walled off content … and left a note explaining why…”. At the same time, we know that the internet police in Thailand have not been particularly skilled in their spying on people, so smart hacking and gaining seemingly hidden information has a big finger pointing at the multinational advertising portal.

Khaosod reports that this is “the first apparent acknowledgement it is cooperating with Thai authorities in censoring content, Facebook has blocked its users in Thailand from accessing a page satirizing Thailand’s Royal Family, citing local laws.”Gukult

 

While “Facebook has long been considered by many Thais as the last haven of free speech in Thailand,” many will now worry that Facebook has become a part of the goon squad corps of cyber spies working for the military dictatorship. As is the plan of the repressive regime, self-censorship will now rule Facebook posting and messaging. Only comments lauding the military junta and the monarchy are likely to appear in Thailand as the country becomes increasingly closed and dark.





Protect the monarchy, restrict journalists

25 02 2016

It is well-known that reporting in Thailand, whether by locals or foreign journalists, requires self-censorship on the monarchy. It is demanded of locals with the threat of the lese majeste law. Self-censorship has long been expected of foreign journalists, through the threat of the same law but also through control of work permits.

In the past, there was a often a rather too cozy relationship between foreign correspondents based in Thailand, the palace and the authorities. When journalists were based long-term in Thailand, issues of residency were especially important for the journalists and their employers.

We are generalizing, of course, but those who have been around for a while know the pattern that existed.

Like so much else, that relationship changed as technology, communications and the media was transformed and as the nature of journalism has moved on from the pre-digital age. It also changed as the political divide in Thailand deepened from the mid-2000s and foreign journalists – at least some of them – had “eye-opening” political experiences and scales lost.

Thailand’s establishment of royalists, tycoons and military dinosaurs want to re-establish the past relationship.

They believe that many of the “problems” they perceive regarding the decline of the monarchy’s standing is the fault of foreign journalists who lack a proper understanding of royalist rules and mores. They believe they can do this by controlling the work permits and visas and thus limit access to Thailand. By limiting access, they think they can recreate the patrimonial relationships of the past that produced the laudatory reporting they liked.

As The Nation reports, journalists now know that “in order to be granted a journalist visa to work in Thailand, foreign media representatives now need to show their attitude toward the monarchy and political development in the Kingdom….”.

The Foreign Ministry’s new royal protection rules have been defended by Minister Don Pramudwinai, “saying that the move would prevent negative reporting about Thailand.” Learning from China, perhaps, the Ministry is “upset over reports from foreign media about political developments in Thailand, and particularly about the role of the monarchy…”.

Foreign journalists who apply for visas are now to be quizzed on their “political attitude – and notably, their thoughts about the Thai monarchy.”

Sounding like the representative of the authoritarian state – yes, he is – “Don said the new regulation had been issued to ‘regulate’ working journalists in Thailand and get rid of ‘unreal’ journalists.” Then like authoritarians everywhere he babbled that the “government [he means military junta] has no intention of limiting freedom of the press … adding that Thailand is the freest media society in the region.”

Both statements are lies.  Thailand is being reversed into a very dark place by an elite that is protective of a corrupt and exploitative social order.





Updated: Despicable liars I

13 02 2016

About 10-12 days ago, military officers sought to “censor displays of political parody at the upcoming annual football match between Chulalongkorn (CU) and Thammasat University (TU).” On 4 February 2016, they “met with students of Thammasat University at Rangsit Campus who are in charge of the pre-match political parody parade at the 2016 CU-TU football match…”.

A day later, the Bangkok Post reported that the military junta “denied it will ban political satire at a Chulalongkorn-Thammasat football match…”. The word is “denied.” That means to state that something declared or believed to be true is not true.

Junta spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree said “organisers of the annual football match from both institutions have promised authorities to keep the political satire within bounds to prevent it being exploited to stir up political tension or disorder.”

Oops, the military did seek to limit the expression by students. So the denial was horse manure. Rather, the military dictatorship thought it could control, limit and repress the students into self-censorship.

Another soldier, Theppong Thipayachan, “who commands the 1st Army Region, insisted the NCPO was not trying to block political commentary but hoped the students would behave in line with the reform efforts carried out by the council [junta] and the government [military dictatorship].”

When the event took place today, the military’s lies became even clearer.

As Khaosod reports, “[p]lainclothes military forces ordered students cut something that looked like a gun from a float about the new constitution at the National Stadium … and later arrested a well-known activist leader.”

It is stated that “hundreds of non-uniformed officers gathered to monitor and censor the satirical parade famously used as an outlet for student political expression.” They threatened to shut down the event if they didn’t like any of the political messages.

And censor they did.

From Ugly Thailand

From Ugly Thailand

The students state that they were “ordered to saw off the gun figure, otherwise the officers won’t let it enter the field…. They said it’s inappropriate because the gun looks violent.”

Well, that’s certainly true, and the military has hundreds of thouands of them and is, with the police, a violent gang of thugs.

When the parade entered the stadium, “an officer disguised in a Chulalongkorn football jersey suddenly interrupted and ripped away a banner carried by students.” Apparently the fascist thugs felt that the banner was inappropriate.

Meanwhile, it was reported that student activist, Sirawith Seritiwat “was reportedly arrested by undercover officers disguised in Thammasat football jerseys…”.

The result of all of this is that the military junta and its thugs are shown to be liars and that they are prepared to dress up and disguise themselves in order to repress and censor. They are despicable.

Update: AFP, Bangkok Post and The Nation have reports.





Updated: Draft charter institutionalizes censorship

13 01 2016

Media censorship in Thailand under the military dictatorship is ubiquitous. Threats, cajoling, self-censorship and political alignment do the trick in most of the mainstream media.

The military brass and the royalist elite fear a freer press. They hate social media that they can’t control and direct.

To placate them going forward it seems the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee plans to institutionalize censorship of the media in its draft constitution.Censorship

As the Bangkok Post reports it, the “CDC now plans to give the state the ability to block news during political crises and other ‘unusual situations’, such as during the mass street protests that lead to 2014’s military coup.”

The CDC “agreed that the government should have such censorship powers following the imposition of an emergency decree or under martial law.” The CDC wants the media to be “cooperative” during such “unusual situations.”

Such institutionalizing of censorship adds to the already draconian capacity in law, including the computer crimes and lese majeste laws. Goodbye all thought of media freedom in Thailand.

Update: According to the Bangkok Post, quite remarkably, the CDC has quickly announced the dropping of it censorship plan. Apparently the drafting dolts have “decided that the executive or emergency decrees issued during such times generally have included provisions allowing for government media censorship. The military also has the same power under martial law…”. At the same time, there was a very strong negative reaction to this rightist plan. We are not sure we believe anything from these diddlers.





Junta pushes online fear

23 12 2015

red candleAs would be expected with all of the recent sedition and lese majeste charges under the military dictatorship, as TelecomAsia.net has it, “netizens of Thailand are living in a climate of fear with no rule of law and self-censorship everywhere…”.

It quotes Assistant Professor Dr Pirongrong Ramasoot from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Journalism who uses a line PPT has also used, saying: “the military government was engaging in rule by law, not rule of law.” In other words, the junta is using the computer crimes and sedition law “to crack down on all dissent and free speech online.”

Pirongrong states that since the 2014 coup, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission “has issued orders to its licensees to block certain sites.”

She adds that: “Since 2008 [following the 2006 coup], CAT has had an internet filtering system.” MICT have told her that “they are not worried about data in the country, but they are concerned with information flowing into the country…”.

Pirongrong also notes “a marked rise in vigilante groups such as the so-called garbage collection and cyber scouts that scour the internet for dissidents to turn over for persecution.”internet-monitoring

The article also indicates the increased use of law suits by the junta to eliminate “negative” stories. Chuwat Rerksirisuk, editor-in-chief of the Prachatai explains that “instead of simply blocking news pages that they did not agree with as the previous Democrat [Party] government kept doing, the junta is bombarding him with criminal defamation lawsuits.”

Sasinan Thammditinan of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said that “since the [2014] coup … [sedition and lese majeste] cases are tried in military courts without any appeal and the courts refuse to take into account the defence that the chain of custody in computer forensics has been broken.

Sasinan states that those arrested “are regularly forced for their Facebook and LINE passwords and their phones and notebooks taken.” The report continues:

Sasinan also pointed a finger of blame squarely at Microsoft Thailand for divulging users’ private or identifying information in many of her cases. “The prosecutors love Microsoft as they give them all the information they ask for,” she said.

Facebook was also a problem, not officially, but there were enough Thais working inside Facebook for a steady stream of information about dissidents to make their way to the military prosecutors, she asserted.

Arnon Chalawan from iLaw said that “17 people had been prosecuted for article 112 of the criminal code for their Facebook activity.” In many cases this means that pressing “like” rather than any re-sharing of an offending post. He states that “Facebook sometimes promotes liked tweets to third parties and therein lies the problem.” Arnon adds:

Criminal culpability requires intent and Facebook is the one promoting those posts in order to sell more online advertising, not the user who simply clicked like usually to just bookmark that post for future reference. However, that line of defence does not work in the military courts….

Thailand is in a deep and dark place where the military dictatorship is determined to expunge all opposition to itself as the self-proclaimed protectors of country and monarchy. Because the junta is intolerant and fearful for “its” monarchical regime, it will get worse.