It is clear and well understood that the Administrative Reform Council (ARC) has full control over Thailand in these abnormal times. However, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) must express its sincere concern for free expression and access to information in the country.
To be sure, local and foreign journalists appear to enjoy unrestricted movement in the country, notwithstanding the imposition of martial law. Thais also seem to have continuing access to the Internet, a vital source of diverse and independent news.
But recent reports that the military has asserted strict rules for broadcast networks and community radio, the initial (and reportedly intermittent) disruption in the cablecast of CNN, BBC, CNBC, and other news channels, and the reminder that the ARC has the power to censor news—especially where former PM Thaksin Shinawatra and anti-coup sentiments are concerned—underscore an instability and unpredictability in the media environment.
The “normalcy” in the working environment for journalists, in other words, continues only at the behest and tolerance of the Council. Under such atmosphere, self-censorship is a danger, and Thais may be deprived of news and information they need to truly take part in the rehabilitation of their democracy.
Even as it calls for media responsibility and prudence, SEAPA urges the Council to assure the Thai media of its freedom, and of its right to engage the public in a free and genuine discourse about the dilemmas and options the people must contend with.
For more information, please contact SEAPA Executive Director Roby Alampay at firstname.lastname@example.org or 66 2 243 5579