Press crackdown to be raised with UN panel; Media damages national unity with “unpatriotic reports”

Thai press crackdown to be raised with UN panel - The Nation, July 5, 2005
Attacks on a BBC News reporter and an investigative journalist made during a government radio programme and a separate show aired by the Parliament's radio station will be raised during the upcoming meeting of the UN's human-rights panel...

[2015 note: Like many Thai newspaper articles from the early days of the Thai internet, this article is no longer online. Below is the complete text of the original article.]

Thai press crackdown to be raised with UN panel

Published on July 05, 2005

Attacks on a BBC News reporter and an investigative journalist made during a government radio programme and a separate show aired by the Parliament’s radio station will be raised during the upcoming meeting of the UN’s human-rights panel.

A group of Thais planning to attend the 84th session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday came up with a final draft that will be submitted to the committee, which meets on July 18.

“The situation of media freedom in Thailand is one of the UN committee’s major concerns after they previously received information about government pressure on the media,” said Preeda Tongchum-num, the group’s representative.

The UN committee has asked the government to provide information on the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression by the Thai media, after receiving reports of increasing government strong-arming of independent media.

“There is much evidence that shows the use of the state’s mechanism to pressure and intimidate the media,” she said.

In its written statement, the group cited the case of Nualnoi Thammasathien, a BBC News journalist, who was verbally attacked by two hosts of a radio programme aired on the Thai Parliament radio station. The programme’s hosts said she had damaged national unity with her “unpatriotic reports” on the Tak Bai protests and crackdown that led to the deaths of 85 demonstrators.

In her report, Nualnoi said the protesters were piled on top of each other in military trucks, and 78 of them died, many from suffocation – essentially facts that have since been proven.

The two hosts urged their audience to write and call the BBC, to complain about Nualnoi’s report and also said the reporter was staying in the country “at this moment”. They also spoke with listeners who phoned into their programme about arranging a protest against any UN representatives that were planning to visit Thailand to investigate the incident.

The group will also bring to the UN committee’s attention remarks made by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on his weekly radio programme on May 14. That’s when he attacked Prasong Lertratanawisute, deputy editor of the Thai-language newspaper Matichon Daily and the vice president of the Thai Journalist Association (TJA).

The premier accused Matichon of being biased against the government in its May 11 headline, which read, “Good governance in the Thai government declines as it failed to control corruption – World Bank rates country at 49 per cent”.

The TJA released a statement to warn that the prime minister’s reaction was likely to set a precedent that would prevent the media from criticising the government or reporting events that put it in a bad light.

The prime minister reacted on the state airwaves that Prasong used the TJA to retaliate against him.

Other issues to be highlighted by the Thai group at the discussion include the plight of stateless persons living in Thailand, birth registrations of non-Thai citizens, torture, problems in the South and free-trade agreements.

The 84th session of the Human Rights Committee will be held at the United Nations Office in Geneva from July 11 to 29. The panel will consider reports submitted by state parties under Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Reports to be considered during the 84th session are from Slovenia, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand and Yemen.

The government’s delegation, led by Sorachak Kasemsuwan, is scheduled to meet with the Human Rights Committee on July 19 and 20.

Amnesty International and the Asian Legal Resource Centre have also submitted to the committee’s secretariat written statements on torture, the South and birth registrations in Thailand.

Subhatra Bhumiprabhas The Nation
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