Thai press freedom index down after coup

Press freedom in Thailand has fallen on the Reporters Without Borders index from a ranking of 130 in 2014 to 134 in 2015. Thailand still remains the second best among the ten members of the ASEAN.

Reporters Without Borders or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), the France-based international NGO for the promotion of freedom of the press, on Thursday released the 2015 Press Freedom Index, an annual ranking of countries based upon the organization's assessment and questionnaires answered by local media-related professionals.

Top of the list, as before, are three Scandinavian countries: Finland, which has been in first place for five years in succession, followed by Norway and Denmark. At the other end of the scale, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, in last place, were the worst performers. France is ranked 38th (up one place), the United States 49th (down three places), Japan 61st (down two places), Brazil 99 (up 12 places), Russia 152 (down four places), Iran 173rd (unchanged) and China 176th (down one place).

Among members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Brunei Darussalam gained the best rank at 121, followed by Thailand (134), Indonesia (138), Cambodia (139), the Philippines (141), Myanmar (144), Malaysia (147), Singapore (153), Lao (171) and Vietnam (175).  

“A new coup in 2014 saw the number of violations skyrocket in the second half of the year. On May 20, 2014, soldiers stormed into at least ten television stations, and ordered a halt to programmes ‘to prevent false information’. After taking power, the army closed about twenty media, blocked foreign TV channels and took control of the main national TV channels. Since then, several political opponents have faced ‘lèse majesté’ charges as well as members of the independent press and critics of the authoritarian junta,” said the RSF. (unofficial translation from French).

RSF added that there was a drastic decline in freedom of information in 2014. Two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed for the 2015 World Press Freedom Index performed less well than in the previous year.