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Remember? Threat to the media = Threat to the people"

The fact that the junta sent armed troops to watch over TV stations in the eve of the judgment day May 30, went by with the Thai media's sound of silence.

Eerily silent

There was only a statement by the September 19 Network against Coup d'etat condemning the threat to the media:

"...As long as there are armed troops deployed at TV stations or any media, the media can hardly report the people well-balanced news, as it at least has to censor itself."

The silence of media-represented organizations opens for numerous interpretations.

As on April 5, the global media day, last year, almost a thousand of Thai media professionals including reporters, editors, and owners came out to fight the threat against the media, with a slogan:

"Threat to the media = Threat to the people"

Incidentally, the three media-represented organizations including Journalists' Association of Thailand, Broadcasters' Association of Thailand, and Reporters' Confederation of Thailand, jointly declared:

"We are united to fight for rights and freedom based on principles of ethics and rightfulness.  We believe that the freedom of media is the freedom of the people, and threat to the media is a threat to the people and Democracy, obstructing development of righteous civil society."

A year goes by at a blink of the eye.

The media organizations and the media itself was nonchalant with the incident, and there was almost no report on newpapers.  This is not the first time that the media turns a bind eye on the junta's threat.  Since the September 19 coup last year, the junta and its installed govenment have repeatedly interfered and threatened the media and people's communications in various forms: closing down hundreds of community radios, censoring certain individuals and broadcast programs, shutting down websites, summoning editors to seek 'cooperation', as well as threatening many foreign news agencies.

However, the junta's attempts have been given sound cooperation by the media.  There has yet to be any protest against the 'threat to the media'.  Sometimes, the media even helps the junta oppose dissenting media.

Furthermore, certain communications academics claim that the junta's 'asking for cooperation' was in the open, not surreptitiously suppressing.  As Assist. Prof. Dr Pirongrong Ramasut of Communications Faculty of Chula said in a forum with Thai expatriats in Germany on May 19, that "After the September 19 coup, the Council for National Security and the government exercised their power to control the media, but it is different from the Thaksin era in that the media control is transparent, not forced, and most media adopt self-censorship in reporting news with high sensitivity."

Last month, Freedom House, an international organization, reported its recent survey on 'independence of world's media' which has dramatically declined.  Thailand is among countries whose media freedom is in recession, and terrible under the coup.  Among its peers in the region are Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Philipines, and Fiji.

It comes as no surprise that the Thai junta has had the same response to the global community's reactions as that of its peers in other countries: no response.

However, the indifference of Thai media to the threat is not only different from the media in other countries who stand up for freedom of the press under coup d'etat.  The silence of Thai media goes against what Thai reporters, editors, and media owners as well as the three media organizations declared last year.   The 13-point declaration was released to the world community.

One point of the declaration reads:

"We, the media, oppose all forms of threat to the media.  We declare to the world that all Thai media do not tolerate any threat in the past and at present.

We call for immediate stop of the threat.  Any threat to any media is deemed a threat to the media as a whole."

A year goes by like a 'fantasy'.  

Translated by Ponglert Pongwanan


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