Freedom of the press plummets into a gorge

From the Thai-language press: Thairath editorial: Freedom of the press plummets into a gorge - October 28, 2005

Freedom of the press is one index that measures the democracy of nations along with an independent judiciary service, political freedom, and rights such as holding elections. Every time in the past in surveys, Thailand is on the top level of Asia following Japan. In the world survey it is quite high on the middle level.

But recently, the survey “Index of the World Press’ Freedom“ from “Reporters Without Border” showed that freedom of the press in Thailand is down abnormally. The ranking fell into a gorge from the 59th level in 2004 to 107th--this is in a ranking of 167 countries. Thailand is bested by even Cambodia (90th) and East Timor (58th).

The survey found that newly democratic countries in Latin America and Africa have no more freedom of newspapers, but many countries in Asia are worse. The better countries are South Korea (34th) and Taiwan (51st ). The best freedom of press are in rich countries in Europe, Denmark , Finland, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, etc.

So it is remarkable that Thailand is poor in freedom of the press which feel off from last year's level by 48 places. This is also sad because it happened under a democratic government and under the constitution which is praised to be the most democratic and having no dictatorial passages like in the past.

The foreign organizations who set the level did not tell the reason why Thailand fell 48 places so we have to look back the press association which always watches the freedom of media. It declared that year 2002 was the "year of interfering in media", year 2003 was “year of rounding up media” and year 2004 was “year of splitting and destroying media.”

For 2005, Thaksin talked big to foreign reporters that Thai newspapers have lots off freedom and they can criticize even the PM. However, the press association has not yet declared what kind of year 2005 is. The media may all agree that year 2005 is year that hidden attempts were made to grab media by buying stock and controlling the business by unfriendly people--as in the hope to grab the giant presses of Matichon group and Bangkok Post.

Freedom of the press is the measure of the nation's democracy. It is a valuable asset that can be transferred into immense capital on the political and diplomatic world stage. Freedom of press came from our earliest reporters' struggle from the pioneer to the generation of today. So it is very sad if we finally lose press freedom in the time of democracy.
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