Journalists slam government over press freedom
BANGKOK (AFP): Thai journalists and academics have attacked the government over what they say is an unprecedented attempt to control the press and curtail media freedom, a report said today. At a meeting organised by the Thai Journalists Association, participants accused Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s administration of using its business links and strong mandate to intimidate the media. “Unlike in the past, this is a very professional attempt to control the media,” said Vilasinee Pipittakul, a lecturer from Chulalongkorn University’s Mass Communications Faculty, according to ‘The Nation’ newspaper. “Among many things, this government has succeeded in linking itself with nationalism and national salvation. Anyone who disagrees with the government becomes a traitor or a minority [member] who tries to rock the boat.” Other speakers told the meeting that the media was particularly vulnerable at a time when newspaper and television station budgets were still constrained by the lingering effects of the 1997-98 financial crisis. “With the government coming from a major business group, and with its control of advertising funds of government agencies and state enterprises, I can barely blame media groups if they are tempted to tow the government’s line,” said freelance journalist Kamnoon Sitthisamarn. “Admit it. Advertising money is their flesh and blood.” Thaksin, a self-made billionaire, won a landslide election victory in January. His first brush with the press came during the election campaign, when reporters with the private television station iTV, which is partly controlled by Thaksin’s business empire, claimed management attempted to censor political coverage.
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