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Foreign media express anxiety over Thailand’s press freedoms

Thaiger

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PHOTO: Tasty Thailand

Foreign journalists in Thailand are expressing concern about what they are calling restrictions on press freedom. Speaking at a recent Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand forum, speakers said that the current laws are “proving to be an obstacle to reporting of the anti-government protests”, despite government assurances there have been no curbs on freedom of expression.

The “Journalism Without Fear or Favour” forum was held to discuss regional press freedoms. The event was sponsored by the Netherlands Embassy in Bangkok to commemorate the World Press Freedom Conference 2020 on December 9 and 10 in The Hague. The event also coincided with International Human Rights Day on December 10.

Matthew Tostevin, the Southeast Asia editor for Reuters, spoke of the legal challenges which foreign media face when reporting news in the region, particularly referencing Thailand’s lese majeste law – Section 112 of the Criminal Code – and the prevarication over its implementation during a period of protests targeting the country’s monarchy.

“At a certain point this year, we were told it was not being applied. As the media reflected, there has been a whole great deal more reporting in both local and international media of the criticisms of the monarchy.”

“But now, of course, the sort of question is over how long such openness can last and how that affects us and our reporting from this country.”

The Bangkok Post asked the deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek for a comment on the matter. She responded saying that the government had not placed any restriction on the freedom of its media or citizens, but everybody must abide by the law (somewhat of an oxymoron within the same sentence).

“It [the news] must be truthful and undistorted”.

Matthew also described the week-long imposition of the State of Emergency in October that “outlawed the publication of information that could threaten national security or create fear as well as the criminal defamation law that intimidates journalists”.

He also made examples of other regional cases ranging from censorship and lawsuits, to imprisonment and bans on access to some areas, eg. Myanmar’s Rakhine state and Indonesia’s Papua province.

In April, Reporters Without Borders published its annual World Press Freedom Index. Generally, and historically, South East Asian nations have performed poorly in this list. Malaysia outranks its neighbours scoring 101st place out of 180 countries, followed by Indonesia (119), the Philippines (136), Myanmar (139), Thailand (140), Cambodia (144), Brunei (152), Singapore (158), Laos (172), and Vietnam (175).

Tan Hui Yee, the Indochina bureau chief for Singapore’s The Straits Times, says that press freedom had regressed since new cybersecurity laws were hatched by authoritarian governments in Thailand and Vietnam when the term “fake news” gained currency and then labelling any criticism of their governments as “fake’ and therefore against the law.

“But the problem with the term is that everything is lumped into a hazy mess. Fake news can be used to described false information and disinformation, but also opinions you disagree with. The pandemic has further put restrictions on the press with the nation having been under a state of emergency since March.”

“They say they need this to coordinate Covid-19 responses, but we have no idea how long this emergency will go on or whether it will be used for other purposes.”

On this point, Thai government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri told the Bangkok Post that the current emergency decree in Thailand, extended five times since it was introduced in March this year, is simply being enforced only to contain the spread of the coronavirus. (The current extension is in place until the start of January, and given the current situation in Thailand, appears likely to be extended again)

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | Chiang Mai

Note from The Thaiger:

As a media player in Thailand we’ve never been contacted by, or been asked to edit or remove stories by, police, members of the parliament, government or Army. The Thaiger has published, from time to time, some vigorous editorials against various Thai government and official decisions, and their actions, without any consequences.

As a foreign-owned business, we take our lead from the local Thai media and some of the larger foreign English-speaking media. Although there are a few no-go issues in Thailand, or where words need to be more carefully selected than in other stories, The Thaiger finds Thailand’s press reasonably robust, broad in coverage and wide in opinions.

Many of the functions expected from Thai press by politicians and officials aren’t written but are instead long-term conventions and nuanced cultural behaviours. Certainly there are also times where some members of the press are ostracised and threatened with criminal charges, but these are rare.

Whilst foreign media often find a lot of these subtleties confounding and see them as barriers, long-time journalists working in Thailand are usually happy to resort to coded language and fluffy writing to report sensitive stories and continue their work.

 

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ynwaps

    Monday, December 14, 2020 at 9:42 am

    Your website was/is blocked on some WiFi networks, just like pornhub.

    • Avatar

      gosport

      Monday, December 14, 2020 at 10:32 am

      It is reported Pornhub is ranked the second mosted visited in Thailand

      • Avatar

        Preesy Chepuce

        Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 3:05 pm

        Perhaps it’s the best news site in Asia? Plenty of scoops being exposed.
        I went past a shop the other day called “Sushi Hub” using the same logo… and had waitresses serving me pizza with Pornhub t-shirts, apparently oblivious. So much for banning…

  2. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Monday, December 14, 2020 at 11:15 am

    It would entail a lot of work to monitor all the media, and if they ban any item this would just draw attention and more people would read the item.
    Banning any media business would be futile. the business would just surface again, and if necessary in a foreign country.
    Put simply, the government want to control the media but are unable.
    IMHO

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Monday, December 14, 2020 at 5:30 pm

      Mine too, Toby, FWIW – the publicity over the BBC article / facebook likes is a perfect example of a home goal.

  3. Avatar

    john

    Monday, December 14, 2020 at 11:39 am

    With Youtube censoring comment about all the corruption during the US election including threatening channel closures, an inquiry into the Facebook monopoly and biases, and Twitter restricting President Trump – and then on top of all that they have the nerve to talk about Thailand “press freedoms”.

    • Avatar

      Bruno

      Monday, December 14, 2020 at 5:25 pm

      Bullshit – there was no fraud in that election ! wake up there is no evidence and the whole world are so happy to get rid of Mr. Trump.- a idiot and liar. the whole world hate. There is NO corruption in that election and surprime court has dismissed it like anybody else win and loose with the same face ! or go to a country with dictatorship like Republicans want to establish in USA – – do you want to live like in North Korea ? trumps friends. stop that bull shit talk . Republicans dont care about american workers only enrichen themselves.. wake up the whole world are laughing at you !

      • Avatar

        Steve

        Monday, December 14, 2020 at 9:20 pm

        Demotard fool! There is heaps of evidence! You are the one with the bullshit talk!

        • Avatar

          The Thaiger

          Monday, December 14, 2020 at 9:31 pm

          I think the US state courts and Supreme Court have already ruled on the affidavits and ‘evidence’ presented to them during the litigation. If the courts decide that there is no admissible evidence then where to go. We just ask the question in good faith.

          • Avatar

            john

            Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 8:14 am

            At this stage the decades long corruption is systemic – you are assuming the courts are independent – they are unfortunately not. And see what happens when a judge does try to do their job like in the case of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas overseeing the very sensitive case of Epstein/ Deutche Bank – dead son, injured husband.

        • Avatar

          albert zweistein

          Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 3:14 am

          Show me the heaps of evidence. It only exists in sick, stubborn heads, brainwashed by the orange man in the white house.

          • Avatar

            Issan John

            Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 10:34 am

            albert, you’re wasting your time with people like john who’ll believe what he wants to regardless of the obvious and irrefutable facts.

            Look at the nonsense he just wrote about ” U.S. District Judge Esther Salas overseeing the very sensitive case of Epstein/ Deutche Bank – dead son, injured husband” which had absolutely nothing to d with the Epstein / Deutsche Bank Case (which she had only just been asigned to). Her son and her husband were shot by an anti-feminist nutter, nothing to do with Epstein or Deutsche Bank at all.

          • Avatar

            John

            Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 3:13 pm

            That’s the cover story aimed at people like yourself – and is so common in these cases there is always a cover-killing immediately afterwards.
            U.S. District Judge Esther Salas was already assigned to the Epstein Deutche bank case BEFORE her son was shot dead.

      • Avatar

        Richard

        Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 10:58 am

        As I read in this article “The news must be both truthful and distorted”.
        Someone forgot to relay that message to the American Fake News. You Liberal Sheep have no clue to the amount of fraud in Presidential Election because the so-called news doesn’t report it.

    • Avatar

      Roger C

      Monday, December 14, 2020 at 9:09 pm

      But, John the censoring you refer to is not mandated by govt. threat. It’s done by partisan private companies with a self interest agenda.

    • Avatar

      Singharacha

      Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 1:22 am

      @john
      You’re right.
      Once again it’s interference into internal Thai affairs.

      It really is a bit rich to see the media in countries where there is no real freedom of expression criticize Thailand on this issue.

      In many countries that claim to be “democratic” or that people believe they are “democratic”, there are a lot of media but they all say the same thing. Anyone who has an opinion contrary to the official truth that is broadcast by the media is banned.

    • Avatar

      Singharacha

      Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 1:25 am

      @john
      You’re right.
      In the Western world, the objective of the MSM (Main Stream Media) or the main so-called “social” media (GAFAM) is not freedom of expression, but money and power.
      They censor people who disagree with them.
      In the United States, millions of people have left and are leaving Googliar, FakeBook, Twatter because of this. These fake “social” media practice censorship while enjoying the immunity of platform status.

    • Avatar

      Alan

      Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 6:53 am

      Not press freedom, you are talking about on line BS and fake news, and information gathering for nefarious purposes.

    • Avatar

      Stevo

      Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 10:28 am

      You are a cult member who drank the kool-aid. Stay out of thailand

  4. Avatar

    Marc

    Monday, December 14, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    Some Tiger YouTube videos have been removed a couple of weeks before. Why? You could see that as the notifications were not been revoked

  5. Avatar

    Fabian

    Monday, December 14, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    Thaiger reminds us that we have to be careful not to say something bad about the king, Thaiger itself is very careful in what it writes about the king. That’s called self-censor.

  6. Avatar

    Ameila Leary

    Monday, December 14, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    Press controls are normally intended to deal with the problem so that the reality does not come out. Thai King imposes constraints on the media so that in the eyes of the world the reality of the crimes committed by him and the interests of Thai citizens will not be taken into account. Thai puppets were ordered to impose limits on media freedom while the demonstrations were taking place and several more events were reported by international media. In order to build news on the King, even many of the media houses were scared.

  7. Avatar

    Ameila Leary

    Monday, December 14, 2020 at 4:58 pm

    lmnex ijau
    Press controls are normally intended to deal with the problem so that the reality does not come out. Thai King imposes constraints on the media so that in the eyes of the world the reality of the crimes committed by him and the interests of Thai citizens will not be taken into account. Thai puppets were ordered to impose limits on media freedom while the demonstrations were taking place and several more events were reported by international media. In order to build news on the King, even many of the media houses were scared.
    MIAFHX UIWEQH

  8. Avatar

    James R

    Monday, December 14, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    The international media probably likes the fact (as they claim) there are media restrictions in some countries like Thailand, after all, news to the journalists is their job, they make money out of so-called bad-news.

    The rest of the population(s) around the world do not care what the media control level is like in Thailand as they are too busy getting on with their day to day life, all they want is a nice pleasant place to visit for holidays.

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