Historic Victory for Workers’ Rights and Press Freedom in Thailand

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the Thailand Supreme Court’s ruling that 21 journalists be reinstated at broadcaster, iTV, calling it an historic victory for workers’ rights and press freedom.

The 9 March decision, rejecting a last-ditch appeal by Shin Corp against the previous day’s ruling, ends over four years of torment for the 21 staff who were sacked on 6 February 2001 after legally forming a trade union at iTV.

“This is a great win for press freedom and journalists’ rights – not just for the 21 people involved, but for Thai journalism,” said IFJ President Chris Warren.

The ruling finally supports the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association’s ruling of March 2002 that the iTV staff were fired without justification. Thailand has been a member of the ILO for over 80 years but Shinawatra’s own company has continually flouted the organisation’s recommendations.

The latest decision is the last in a series of verdicts delivered in the workers’ favour despite repeated Shin Corp appeals, apparently intended to exhaust the workers’ resolve.

“I congratulate the 21 men and women who have persevered with great courage in the face of incredible challenges over the past four years,” said Warren. “But more than just a victory at iTV, this ruling represents a triumph for workers’ rights and press freedom across the world.”

Many have drawn comparisons between Shinawatra’s control over iTV and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Bulusconi’s firm grip over his media assets, which has effectively silenced dissent.

“iTV was once renowned for its hard-hitting journalism but when Shin Corp increased its holding to 50 per cent in November 2000, its staff were forced to tow the Shinawatra line,” said Warren, who leads the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide.

The decision follows Shinawatra’s 6 February re-election, dismaying many Thais daunted by the prospect of another four years of strict Shinawatra rule without checks and balances.

Amid the joy at the court’s decision, journalists expressed reservations about returning to an iTV where Shin Corp still ultimately holds the reins.

The IFJ supports Sakoldet Silapong’s call for Shinawatra’s family-owned company to sell its shares in Thailand’s only private broadcaster to ensure its independence.

“It is simply an abhorrent conflict of interest that a democratically elected leader can have such control over such a major news source,” said Warren.

“The IFJ calls on Mr Shinawatra, to honour the Thai media’s constitutionally enshrined independence and divest his and his family’s financial interests in iTV. We also urge him to outlaw similar conflicts of interest in the future.”

For further information contact Christopher Warren on +61 411 757 668

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries