Press freedom under siege, says IFJ

BRUSSELS: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today written to Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra calling on his government to stop political interference in the media, and reiterating a call to introduce new rules to prevent conflicts of interest over media ownership. The letter follows a spate of incidents threatening independent media in Thailand. The IFJ, the Brussels-based global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 professionals worldwide, is extremely concerned over recent events in Thailand, including the removal of the editor of the Bangkok Post, Veera Prateepchaikul, who is also chairman of the Thai Journalists’ Association (the TJA). Veera was removed from his post on 22 February, an event widely seen as an attempt to stifle Bangkok Post criticisms of Thaksin 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 critical of the prime minister’s approach to the bird flu problem. The prime minister’s family company, Shin Corp, holds a 50 per cent stake in iTV. Similarly, the editor of Siamrath Weekly News, another media outlet owned by a politician, reportedly resigned last week 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 the editor of a Thai language business daily was late last year “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 his letter to the Thai prime minister today. “The IFJ calls on your government to withdraw from interfering in the media – both overtly, through direct ownership, and covertly, through pressure and manipulation of media owners,” he wrote. Last year, the IFJ called on the Thai prime minister to relinquish his family’s stake in iTV immediately, and to introduce media ownership laws to ban further conflicts of interest in the future.

Phuket News

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