Thailand’s new curbs further harm press freedom

30-Nov-2021 Intellasia | UCANews | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has told media outlets to stop reporting on pro-democracy activists calling for reform of the monarchy.

NBTC commissioner Lt. Gen. Perapong Manakit told media outlets to desist from interviewing protest leaders or anyone who agreed with their demands for a need to reform the monarchy.

The warning, deemed ominous for further restraining freedom of speech in the Southeast Asian country, comes in the wake of the Constitutional Court declaring any criticism or comments on the monarchy as amounting to treason.

“The effect has been chilling. We’ve had to walk on eggshells [in our reporting of the pro-democracy protests] over the past year and now we’ll have to walk on eggshells and thin ice,” an editor of an English-language publication in Bangkok told UCA News on condition of anonymity.

Although the regulating body said journalists working in Thailand remained free to report on pro-democracy protests, it warned them that coverage of protesters’ calls for monarchy reforms could be viewed as repeating the offense and result in the prosecution of journalists and media outlets.

A draconian royal defamation law criminalises any criticism of the royals or the institution of monarchy in general in a country where the royal family is officially held up as a paragon of virtue and selflessness.

The latest restraints on political reporting may cause media outlets to self-censor regarding demands voiced by pro-democracy activists who see the monarchy as an ossified institution that is out of step with 21st-century norms.

Thai media outlets have generally been extremely cautious in reporting on demonstrators’ demands ever since youth-led street protests against the government of prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha erupted in July last year.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, at least 155 activists, including numerous minors, have been charged with royal defamation, a crime punishable with up to 15 years in prison per count.

Some protest leaders, who are currently in prison ahead of their trials, have been charged numerous times for their various statements, which means they could potentially be sentenced to decades-long or even centuries-long prison terms.


Category: Thailand

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