On 18 July 2017, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) awarded its Press Freedom Award to four journalists, including Pravit Rojanaphruk, a senior reporter at Khaosod English, who has consistently criticised Thailand’s junta and the lèse majesté law. The CPJ states
that the four journalists have contributed to revealing the truth in their own countries, despite growing threats and intimidation.
The other three award winners are Ahmed Abba from Cameroon, Patricia Mayorga from Mexico and Afrah Nasser from Yemen.
The CPJ statement recognises Pravit as “a critical reporter and press freedom advocate in Thailand, who was harassed by the government and detained twice in recent years over his coverage of Thai politics and human rights.”
Pravit posted on his Facebook account that the award reflects the lack of freedom of the press and expression in Thailand as a result of the military regime, the lèse majesté law, and conservatism within the media and Thai society. He added that without intimidation from the ruling junta, he might not have won this prestigious prize.
“I realise that I might not have received this award without the NCPO’s intimidation. But more importantly, what should we do when we face intimidation from an illegitimate power? When you face dictatorship, will you surrender or stand up for freedom?” says Pravit’s post
Prachatai: Do you have anything to tell Thai media?
Pravit: "Firstly, the media shows a variety of opinions. But regrettably, during the past decade, the partisanship of the media has changed them into media that is not open to a range of opinions. The second issue is Article 112, the lèse majesté law. Though at present we cannot change the law, the media have to create public awareness that this law creates huge restrictions. It makes society unable to speak, express or exchange ideas on the monarchy legally and equally.
"Thirdly, it’s also regrettable that many in the media investigate the current military dictatorship as if it was a normal elected government. The media should emphasise to both the government and society the understanding that though the current government has seized power, it has no legitimacy, because if the media treats the current government like it reports on and investigates ordinary governments, it is conniving with the military in thinking that they can stage more coups in the future."
Prachatai: What do you want to tell people during the time of intimidation like this?
Pravit: "I say people must not lose hope. They must try to stand up for and be steadfast on their own rights. If we keep surrendering, there will eventually be no space left to express our ideas. This is very important. Many may be disheartened because the NCPO seized power and have run the country for three years creating by fear among those who think differently. But I want people to try to think that they are not only people or the population, but in fact are citizens, the ones who who pay taxes and are the owners of the country.
"It’s the duty of all citizens to try to protect the space for freedom, whether it is freedom of the media or freedom to express as much as they can, whether in public or on social media. I also want them to look into the distant future, that the struggle to protect rights, freedom and democracy cannot be achieved in short period of time. I call on everyone in every generation to come out and protect rights and freedoms."
Under the junta, Pravit has twice been summoned to military camps and been visited by soldiers several times for criticising the military government. Citing pressure from readers, the pro-establishment The Nation newspaper asked him to quit his job
after his second spell of military detention in 2015. He now continues his journalism work at Khaosod English.
Pravit campaigned against the junta’s censorship of the media in 2014 (Photo from Kapook)