Thailand: Authorities reverse restrictions on reporters covering anti-government protests

Following pressure from journalist unions, Bangkok’s Metropolitan Police have conceded that the extended list of requirements for media workers covering anti-government protests in Bangkok was a “misunderstanding”. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) applauds the unions’ proactive defence of media access, with the result an encouraging step in maintaining Thailand’s press freedom.

Anti-government protesters watch as fireworks are thrown at police at a demonstration in Bangkok on September 12, 2021. Credit: Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP

On September 17, Thai police issued numerous conditions that determined journalists’ ability to cover anti-government protests past Bangkok’s 9pm COVID-19 curfew. Authorities mandated that all journalists must produce an official letter of permission from police allowing them to report on demonstrations, as well as a government-issued press card and a letter of assignment from their employer. Given the nature of the documents required, the stipulations disproportionately impacted freelancers’ access to the protests. 

A representative from the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) informed the IFJ that the organisation immediately contacted the relevant authorities to clarify the mandate and voice their concerns. “Several hours later the deputy commander of the Metropolitan Police personally informed our representative that the force will no longer impose the restrictions and explained that the whole issue was a ‘misunderstanding’,” the TJA representative said. 

Following this development, members of the media are permitted to continue to cover police operations against anti-government protestors during curfew hours so long as they carry sufficient identification. 

After the initial announcement, the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand (FCCT) issued a statement decrying the restrictions. “This is an onerous set of requirements for what should be routine media work,” the statement reads. “It is unacceptable that journalists should face the threat of arrest and prosecution while doing their jobs, simply because they cannot meet all these bureaucratic conditions.”

The IFJ said: “The proposed arbitrary conditions aimed to obstruct press freedom and prevent journalists from covering significant events in the public interest. The IFJ urges Thai authorities to continue to allow journalists and media workers to perform their duties without obstruction.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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