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Backlash over Thai media restrictions

Critics say Prime Minister Thaksin is seeking to control the media to keep his grip on power - he says media must be responsible in its criticism
Critics say Prime Minister Thaksin is seeking to control the media to keep his grip on power - he says media must be responsible in its criticism  


Staff and wires

BANGKOK, Thailand -- International press monitors and Thailand's media are raising an outcry over what they say are government curbs on press freedom.

An editorial in one newspaper suggested the restrictions imposed by the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra were designed to suppress dissent and move Thailand towards dictatorship.

A day earlier the independent "Nation Multimedia Group" was told by the license holder of an army-owned radio frequency it would stop broadcasting the group's programs after the group was alleged to have produced shows critical of Thailand's government.

Nation group managers have said they will stop all political coverage on their broadcast outlets until such time as they can be sure they will be free from all forms of interference.

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Editor of the Bangkok Post, Pichai Chuensuksawadi, on the Thai press crackdown
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Wednesday's edition of The Nation newspaper, published by the company, covered its front page with the headline "Shut Up or Shut Down," saying in its editorial there was no doubt Thaksin was "going all out to silence his enemies."

"Dictatorship is about one man forcing others to accept his ideas -- and his alone," it said.

"Thaksin has shown adequately which side of the fence he is on."

Last week the government revoked the visas of two international journalists from the Hong Kong-based newsmagazine the Far Eastern Economic Review.

Authorities said an article they had written was a threat to national security.

'Negative consequences'

Thaksin: Center of media attention, though perhaps not the kind of attention he would like
Thaksin: Center of media attention, though perhaps not the kind of attention he would like  

For his part Thaksin has said the media can have freedom, but that it should be what he called "constructive."

"It is not that they can criticize anyone without thinking of any negative consequences to the country's stability," he said Tuesday.

"The nation needs unity now," he added.

Several media monitoring groups have raised concerns over the Thai government's actions with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) saying in an open letter to Thaksin it was "gravely concerned" by the ban.

"This appears to be the latest in a series of moves designed to stifle the country's free press, one of the cornerstones of Thai democracy," Reuters quoted the letter as saying.

"We call on you to guarantee the legal right of all journalists and media outlets in the country to report free of direct or indirect pressure from the government."

The organization Reporters Sans Frontieres, based in Paris, also expressed concerns for the future of Thailand's press, once regarded as one of the freest in Asia.

"We wonder when these attacks on press freedom are going to stop," Reuters quoted the group as saying. "The target is now one of the country's last remaining independent media groups."

Thaksin, a multi-millionaire businessman who made his fortune in telecoms, won a landslide victory in elections just over a year ago.

However, recent polls suggest he may be losing some of that popularity and critics have suggested he may be trying to secure his hold on power by seeking to control the media.



 
 
 
 






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