Campaign for media freedom criticized as hypocritical after removal of Thai PBS host

Journalists from the Thai PBS TV channel and other mainstream media kicked off a campaign for media freedom after the junta’s interference in the channel, resulting in the removal of a programme host. However, their campaign for media freedom has been harshly criticized as being hypocritical as the programme host has record of supporting censorship. 
 
The campaign was initiated by Nattaya Wawweerakhup, the embattled programme host, when she posted pictures of herself on her Facebook page with her hands closing her eyes, ears, and mouth. Other mainstream media journalists followed. 
 
The campaign came after the executives of Thailand Public Broadcasting Service removed Nattaya Wawweerakhup, the host of “Voices of the People that must be heard before the Reform” as a result of the junta’s pressure to stop broadcasting the programme last Friday because the host asked questions, which led people to make negative remarks about the coup.
 
The campaign for media freedom among mainstream media workers. In the centre of the top row is Nattaya Wawweerakhup and on the right on the top row is Nattha Komolvadhin. The text in the middle reads ‘harassing the  media is harassing the people’
Photo courtesy of Sataporn Pongpipatwattana
 
After the news about Nattaya made headlines in the Thai media, Thai PBS backtracked on its decision, stating that Nattaya did not do anything wrong according to journalistic ethics and pointed out that the junta should not overlook public participation, which is crucial for reform.
 
On the same day, this statement drew official support from the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), which for the first time called on the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to rescind Announcements No. 97 and 103, and lift martial law to allow more media freedom. In July, the TJA only “expressed concerns” over Announcement No. 97.
 
Announcement No. 97 states that the authorities can shut down any media, whether print, television, radio or online, if it disseminates information deemed threatening to the monarchy or national security, or criticises the work of the NCPO. The NCPO issued Announcement No. 103 to amend Announcement No. 97 after it was criticized by media professionals. 103 states that criticism is prohibited only if it is made with dishonest intentions using false information. Also, if any media professional breaches Announcement No. 97, the case will be forwarded to a professional council for ethical investigation. 
 
Although these expressions and statements against the coup-makers are undoubtedly courageous, anti-coup Internet users questioned Nattaya and the TJA as they have never before made any statements against the junta.
 
To point out the inconsistency of the mainstream media, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a renowned anti-coup political scientist from Kyoto University wrote a satirical interview with Nattaya:
 
Question: Could you explain how you were intimidated?
Nattaya: Well, I’ve been asleep since 22 May [the day when the coup d’état was staged] and just woke up for several days until I was intimidated. I can’t accept this. I’m a responsible member of the press, defending democracy. I would not let anyone to threaten us and our profession, so I invite other journalists to take part in a campaign to shut their eyes, mouths, and ears. It’s a powerful campaign, I did the same before…now I have to go back to sleep.
 
"It's been almost half year, and most of the media just realized that they don't have freedom?" tweeted Sunai Phasuk, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in Thailand on Monday. 
 
A parody of the campaign by Hamer Salvala. In Thai culture, buffalos sumbolize stupidity
 
 
According to Isara News Agency, Nattaya in March 2013 was one of the news editors who urged the station to stop broadcasting a series on the lèse majesté law and the Thai monarchy on Tob Jot, a political talk-show programme hosted by Pinya Traisuriyathamma. The series featured Sulak Sivaraksa and Somsak Jeamteerasakul, two renowned, but controversial, Thai political historians.
 
Nattha Komolvadhin, Thai PBS’s ASEAN editor and one of the journalists who joined the campaign, also expressed disapproval and called on the station to stop broadcasting the programme. 
 
Nattaya and Nattha have no record of campaigning for freedom of expression for lèse majesté prisoners, for Somyos Pruksakasemsuk, Pravit Rojanaphruk or Jom Petpradab, while the TJA have barely made any statement against Article 112 (the lèse majesté law) or supporting lèse majesté prisoners, journalists or media, who may be branded as red-shirt or liberal, when they were harassed. 
 
 
The journalists who are forgotten by this campaign. (Clockwise) Pravit Rojanaphruk, Pinyo Traisuriyathamma, Jom Petpradab, Somyos Phruksakasemsuk and Pornthip Mongyai, a news reporter from Mono Channel fired after taking that photo in front of military camp. Photo courtesy of Pravit Chachavalpongpun Facebook
 
 
Somyos, the former editor of a red-shirt magazine, has been detained in prison for more than three years for editing an article deemed lèse majesté. Pravit, the so-called “black sheep” of The Nation newspaper, and Jom, a former NBT journalist, were both summoned by the military. Pravit reported in and was detained for seven days, while Jom left the country for the US. Pravit and Jom have been incessantly criticizing the coup and the lèse majesté law.
 
It should be noted that the TJA nominated four current and former members for appointment to the junta’s National Reform Council (NRC). Pradit Ruangdit, President of the TJA, now serves as an NRC member.  
 
“They fight for freedom for themselves, not for human freedom or for real democracy ʼcoz they don't know and don't believe in them,” was a comment on Andrew McGregor Marshall’s Facebook regarding the campaign.
 
 
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