The professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand is very concerned to hear that a Belgian journalist, Kris Janssens, was detained by Thai immigration police early on Thursday morning, and warned not to interview a prominent political activist. Mr. Janssens, who is based in Phnom Penh, was escorted by five immigration officers from his hotel in Bangkok and held for more than four hours at the Immigration Bureau in Suan Plu. He was asked to take all his luggage with him.
During his questioning he was advised that he should not pursue his plan to interview activist Anurak ‘Ford’ Jeamtawanich about the physical assault he suffered in May. Mr. Janssens was advised that the activist might induce him to commit an illegal act, and told he should leave Thailand immediately. As he has prepaid, non-refundable bookings for his hotel and his flight back on 12 October, he was allowed to stay on the condition that he did not meet Anurak. If he did interview him, he would be in trouble.
It is deeply disturbing when authorities anywhere try to dictate who foreign journalists should or should not interview. They are perfectly within their rights to challenge reporting they believe to be unbalanced, but preventing a professional journalist from interviewing someone is an unwarranted infringement on media freedom. The idea that a journalist might be induced into committing an illegal act merely by talking to an activist is non-sensical. The Thai government should continue to allow foreign journalists to report on political issues here without facing threats of unspecified legal action.