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After power seizure, Thai military targeted press freedom


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Posted on Friday May 23, 2014

Last updated Wednesday July 06, 2016

  Press Freedom, Thailand, Military Coup

Press freedom in Thailand is almost seized as the military, soon after the coup of May 22, 2014, forced local broadcasters to stop their regular programming and instead run still images of the new ruling junta's banner against the backdrop of military songs, according to social media posts and CPJ research.

HNF Correspondent

After seizure of administrative power in a coup, Thailand's military-led National Peace and Order Maintaining Council ordered local broadcast media to halt regular programming and local satellite and cable service providers to block international news channels, according to news reports. 

Such an order was strongly condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists that called for an immediate and unconditional restoration of press freedom in the country.

As per reports, Army Commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha announced the council's seizure of power from Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan's caretaker administration at around 4 p.m. after a meeting of opposing political groups failed to reach an agreement on the creation of a new interim government.

Local broadcasters were forced, on May 22, 2014, to stop their regular programming and instead run still images of the new ruling junta's banner against the backdrop of military songs, according to social media posts and CPJ research. At around 8 p.m., several international broadcasters, including the BBC, CNN, and Al-Jazeera, were also blocked inside the country. Military-run Channel 5 was the only local station allowed to continue broadcasting as usual, said CPJ on the basis of information it gathered.

Later in the day, military officers detained Wanchai Tantiwitthayapithak, deputy director of Thailand Public Broadcasting Service, from the newsroom after the journalist aired news on YouTube despite the military order, according to news reports.

"Today's military takeover represents a clear and present danger to Thailand's long-held tradition of press freedom," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's Southeast Asia representative, adding, "While the new ruling junta may believe that media censorship is necessary to restore stability and security, suppression of news is likely to have the opposite effect. Broadcasters and journalists should be free to report during this pivotal political moment in Thailand."

On Tuesday, Prayuth ordered the closure of at least 11 satellite and cable TV stations and more than 3,000 radio stations across the country in the name of restoring stability amid rising tension between pro- and anti-government protest groups, according to news reports. Troops were positioned inside the newsrooms of several local TV stations, according to reports.

Local reports said that military authorities, in cooperation with the state-run National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, had ordered more than 50 local Internet service providers to filter within one hour any news or commentary carried on their platforms that "distort facts, instigate disorder, or create fear and misunderstanding." The local True Corporation shuttered six unnamed websites in line with the martial law announcements, the reports said.

"Thailand's military has wrongly equated censoring the media with restoring stability," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative on May 20, the day of imposition of martial law demanding roll back of all martial law orders that aim to suppress and control the media, and refrain from censoring the press. “Thailand needs more, not less, open debate about its political problems," she said.

[Based on CPJ Media Alerts]

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