Military junta continues to tighten screws on Thailand’s press freedom

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) in criticizing a directive by the Thai military junta that resulted in the cancellation of a media freedom on January 30. The IFJ and the TJA have called the intervention a direct attack on freedom of expression and called on the junta’s National Council Peace and Order (NCPO) to respect the rights of the media or face international condemnation.

The Asia Media Barometer: Thailand 2014 forum, organized by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and the TJA, was cancelled on an order from the NCPO. It alleged FES had not followed procedure to gain permission to host the event. However, two days earlier, the IFJ understands that NCPO flagged concerns that the event may touch on controversial content that could have repercussions for the military junta’s ongoing effort to restore “peace and order”.

The NSCP was installed to rule Thailand on May 22, 2014. It followed the Thai coup d’état on May 20, 2014, when Thailand’s military declared nationwide martial law in an attempt to stop the country's escalating political crisis. Since then, the junta has censored the broadcasting system in Thailand, repealed the constitution, and arrested members of the Thai cabinet and media.

The media forum event on January 30 was intended to launch FES’s second Thailand report, measuring the media landscape and conditions in the country between 2011-2014. The report rated the Thai media situation as a 2.475 out of a total of five, dropping from 2.7 in its first report in 2010. The findings outlined the imposition of martial law and the military coup d’état.

TJA vice president Manop Thip-Osot said: “It would be a pity if an academic event was cancelled as it was significant to the basic rights of the people to express their opinions.”

The TJA said such interventions could negatively impact the image of the country as it is under watch by international communities since the coup d’état.

Since the beginning of 2015, the Thai junta has looked at ways to increase their surveillance. On January 7, the ‘Cyber Security Bill’ was approved, which under Section 35 created a new state agency to access all communications of Thai citizens. The aim is to oversee threats to national cyber security and threats related to national, economic and military security and stability.

The TJA said that the 10 internet related bills proposed in the past month could be used against freedom of expression and violate the right to privacy and personal information.

The IFJ Asia Pacific said: “The IFJ is gravely concerned at the ongoing and repeated attempts by the NCPO to silence and censor the media under the guise of peace and order. The report released by FES details the exact issues that saw the cancellation of their launch event in Thailand and shows a grave disintegration of media freedoms under its rule. The IFJ is calling for the urgent amendments to the proposed bills to respect freedom of expression." 

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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