The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) issued a statement following the protest on Saturday (20 March), during which several journalists were shot with rubber bullets, calling for the authorities to review their crowd control procedures and to take care not to use force on working journalists.
Protesters and journalists gathering in front of the container blockade at Saturday's protest
The statement reads:
FCCT STATEMENT ON JOURNALISTS INJURED BY POLICE RUBBER BULLETS
The professional committee of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand is very concerned by the injuries inflicted by rubber bullets on several journalists covering the protests around Sanam Luang on Saturday night. The police used water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.
We fully support the points raised in a statement by six Thai media associations, and urge the Thai authorities to recognize that journalists covering the protests are doing their jobs, and should not be targeted.
The National Press Council, the Thai Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, the Online News Providers Association, the News Broadcast Council of Thailand and the National Union of Journalists Thailand, have raised these points:
1.People have the right, under a democratic system, to protest peacefully, without provocation, weapons or the use of force.
2.The police must take action, step by step, when dispersing protests, and must clearly inform the protesters and the media in advance about the steps to be taken, to avoid violence.
3.The media themselves should follow the set guidelines about working under crisis situations, to avoid physical injury, death or damage to their equipment or vehicles.
4.Media agencies should ensure the safety of their staff members and equip them with appropriate protective gear. Reporters covering protests should wear arm bands identifying themselves as members of the media, but also carefully assess risks.
The FCCT would like to draw attention to the United Nations guidelines on the use of non-lethal force, which stress that:
“The use of less-lethal weapons to disperse an assembly is an indiscriminate tactic, and should only be considered a last resort. Dispersal may be considered where violence is serious and widespread and represents an imminent threat to bodily integrity or property, and where law enforcement officials have exhausted all reasonable measures to facilitate the assembly and protect participants from harm.”
The guidelines also state that rubber bullets should only be aimed at the lower body area of individuals identified as posing a specific risk, and should never be aimed at the head. On Saturday night one journalist had to be hospitalised for a head scan after being struck in the head by a rubber bullet.
The FCCT urges the Thai authorities to review their crowd-control procedures, in view of the injuries suffered on Saturday night, and to take particular care not to use force on working journalists in a protest.