In a statement and open letter addressed to the Prime Minister released yesterday (6 April), the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) calls for the exemption of journalists from the nationwide curfew implemented last week, which prohibited people from leaving their residences between 22.00 - 4.00.
The statement said:
The FCCT welcomes the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Thailand and is complying unhesitatingly with public safety measures, including temporary closure of the clubhouse and suspension of programmes. However, as a body that represents both Thai and foreign member journalists, we believe that one element of the nationwide curfew implemented on April 3 will seriously affect vital news coverage.
The curfew prohibits people from moving about outdoors between 10pm and 4am, although exemptions include medical and banking personnel, certain logistics workers, authorized officials and regular night-shift workers. Media have been informed they are not permitted to work outside during curfew hours unless they secure special permission from the Armed Forces Chief General Pornpipat Benyasri. Violators face fines and jail sentences of up to two years.
Reflecting the concerns of our professional members and Thai media colleagues including Matichon Group, the FCCT has respectfully asked Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to consider whether accredited journalists with government-issued Press ID cards could be permitted to move about in curfew hours to cover essential news.
Around the world, media coverage inside hospitals, emergency centres and curfew zones is highlighting the enormity of this threat and providing vital information to people everywhere. It is in this context we have submitted this request, with the assurance that our members understand the urgent need to take every precaution and respect the government's efforts to protect public safety.
As of 7 April, Thailand has 2,258 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 824 of which have been discharged from hospital, and a death toll of 27.