The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned by reports of continued censorship in Thailand almost two weeks after the September 19 coup, despite assurances from coup leaders that media freedoms would be respected.
According to local reports, international television news broadcasts are liable to be interrupted, armed soldiers stand guard in newsrooms, anti-coup and pro-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra websites have been shut down, as has the political discussion board on Pantip.com, and more than 300 community radio stations in the north and northeast have been temporarily closed after some broadcast programs critical of the coup.
Furthermore, the popular political website Midnight University (www.midnightuniv.org) was reportedly shut down on September 29 after the site carried a protest against the draft interim constitution. The closure also meant the loss of 1500 scholarly articles provided for free public education.
“Censorship of the media is not the answer to reinstating democracy in Thailand,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.
“Democracy cannot be achieved without a free press and the IFJ strongly urges the new prime minister of Thailand to ensure that the freedoms and independence of the media are protected,” Warren said.
Retired General Surayud Chulanont was sworn in as Thailand's new military-appointed prime minister on Sunday October 1, and a new interim constitution drafted by the coup leaders, now called the Council for Democratic Reform (CDR), was unveiled.
The new document reportedly empowers coup leaders to remove the prime minister, provides for the drafting of a new long-term constitution, and promises democratic elections in October 2007.
Despite assurances the CDR chairman General Sondhi Boonyaratkalin made to around 20 representatives of six local media professional groups and newspapers on September 29, the interim constitution does not include defined protections for mass media freedoms.
General Sondhi Boonyaratkalin reportedly told representatives from the Press Council of Thailand, the Confederation of Thai Journalists, the Thai Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, the Association of Provincial Reporters and the Association of Cable TV Networks that civil liberties and media freedom would be safeguarded under the interim constitution.
“The interim constitution has worryingly not provided any specific guarantees for media autonomy, and considering the recent censorship and the fragile political climate in Thailand, this is particularly concerning,” Warren said.
The IFJ, representing over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries, calls on the new prime minister and the CDR to reinstate access to all websites shutdown since the coup, to allow all radio stations to broadcast freely, and to respect Thailand’s vital need for a free and independent media.
For more information please contact IFJ Asia Pacific +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries