IFJ Condemns Government Interference in the Private Media in Thailand

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has written today to Thailand’s Prime Minister calling on his government to stop political interference in media and reiterating a call to introduce new rules to prevent conflicts of interest over media ownership, following a spate of incidents threatening independent media in the country.

The IFJ, the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, is
extremely concerned over recent events in Thailand including the sacking of the editor of the Bangkok Post, Veera Prateepchaikul, who is also chairman of the Thai Journalists’ Association

It is understood that Veera was removed from his post on 22 February and this move has been widely interpreted as an attempt to stifle critical reports by the Bangkok Post of the Thai Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Thaksin Shinnawatra, and his government.

In addition, Jamjit Ravikul was removed from the post of news editor of iTV. The removal has been reported to be in response to a story broadcast on the network critical of the Prime Minister’s approach to the bird flu problem. The Prime Minister’s family company, Shin Corp, has a 50 per cent stake in iTV.

Last week the editor of Siamrath Weekly News, another media outlet owned by a politician,
reportedly resigned after government pressure resulted in the recalling of 30,000 copies of the magazine critical of the government’s handling of the bird flu crisis.

SEAPA, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, which has protested over recent cases of political interference in media, also reports that late last year the editor of a Thai language business daily was “sidelined to an inactive position after the paper published a series of exposes” on the Prime Minister.

“Clearly press freedom is taking a battering at the hands of the political elite in Thailand,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren in a letter to the Thai Prime Minister today.

The IFJ is calling on the Thai government to stop interfering in the media - both overtly, through direct ownership, and covertly, through pressure and manipulation of media owners.

Last year, the IFJ urged on the Prime Minister of Thailand to relinquish his family’s stake in iTV immediately and introduce media ownership laws to ban further conflicts of interest in the future.

The IFJ has been involved in a long-running campaign to reinstate the 21 iTV workers that were illegally sacked from iTV for forming a union early in 2001. The workers have had three decisions in their favour for reinstatement and yet the company has, to date, refused to rehire and compensate the workers.

To view the IFJ’s and other organisations’ protests on this issue, visit www.ifj-asia.org/Thailand.html