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Press freedom vanishing from Thailand

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Press freedom vanishing from Thailand | Thaiger

BANGKOK (The Nation): In his speech before the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Wednesday, Asean Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan delivered what might best be described as a severe reality check for Thai citizens. Citing statistics from Freedom House, the New York-based monitor of media freedoms around the world, he noted that less than a decade ago Thailand ranked 29th out of 194 countries surveyed, putting it among the top 15% in the world. In its data released last month, however, the agency’s ‘Freedom Index’ saw Thailand in 127th place.

The Thai press reached its peak in terms of freedom under the government led by the Democrat Party (1997-2000). At that time, relations between the media and the government were based on mutual respect and professionalism, unlike the rueful conditions prevailing under the successive Thaksin governments and the regime of its cronies in power today.

The Asean chief pointed out that Thailand was the first country in Southeast Asia to have an information law, which gives the public the right to know. The Thai example has received a positive reception in the region. Recently, the Indonesian parliament approved its own information law. For years, Indonesian authorities have studied the Thai information act and improved upon it. Now, Cambodia, the Philippines and Malaysia are contemplating their own similar laws.

Dr Pitsuwan urged the Thai press to pay more attention to transnational issues that affected Asean citizens and to help promote press freedoms and professionalism in Southeast Asia. He emphasized that if the Thai press were free, it would add momentum to the current national initiatives to recognize the public’s ‘right to know’ throughout the region.

 

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