Press freedom ranks slightly better in Thailand this year

Protest at Democracy Monument, photo by Wikimedia.

Despite its reputation for censorship, and repeated threats against activists over alleged lèse majesté violations, Thailand’s press freedom is ranking slightly better this year from last year. On a list of 180 countries, Thailand now ranks at 115, while last year it ranked at 137. Meanwhile, press freedom in Asia-Pacific at large has gotten worst, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Reporters Without Borders noted that Thailand’s media scene is deeply divided between mainstream media, and lesser known media, which it said often tries to provide different points of view. RSF said that lesser known media is often targeted by Thai authorities. The organisation added that PM Prayut Chan-o-cha believes media should “play a major role in supporting the government’s affairs”.

Countries that rank as having the worst press freedom were Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Iran, Eritrea and North Korea. Countries with the best press freedom are Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia and Finland.

Despite its slight improvement in press freedom, censorship and threats continue in many other sectors of Thai society, particularly against student activists. In February, the president of Chulalongkorn Univesity’s student council was dismissed from his position after he presented a controversial video at a student orientation in 2021. The video featured talks by two prominent protest leaders, nicknamed Penguin and Rung, who are known critics of Thailand’s monarchy. In his talk, Penguin raised his middle finger, and encouraged students to do the same.

Another student activist was almost barred from studying in Germany, where she had won a prestegious scholarship. Luckily for her, the South Bangkok Criminal Court ruled just before her studies began that she would indeed be allowed to study there.

In February, the Economist Intelligence Unit officially deemed Thailand a “flawed democracy” out of four categories: full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes, and authoritarian regimes. It ranked Thailand 72 out of 167 countries in its “Democracy Index 2021,” which ranks countries for how democratic they are.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.

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