The professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand is deeply concerned over an order from the Royal Thai Police to investigate four Thai media outlets, accompanied by a threat to suspend these outlets if they are found to have published material that undermines national security.
Voice TV, Prachathai, The Reporters and The Standard are being investigated over their reporting of recent anti-government protests.
A free media is an essential element in any democratic society, and bona fide journalists should be allowed to report important developments without the threat of bans, suspensions, censorship or prosecution hanging over them.
The justification used in this instance by the authorities under the controversial new state of emergency is that some reports may undermine national security. This is overly broad, and can easily be abused to silence reporting that is accurate but makes the government uncomfortable.
This move is also likely to be ineffective and counterproductive in an age of social media, where there are far too many ways in which information and comment of uncertain quality can be disseminated to censor. This is therefore not the time to interfere with the work of professional and accountable journalists. It makes the government appear heavy-handed and unresponsive to criticism, and could stir up even more public anger.
Responsible media always welcome engagement with representatives of the government and law enforcement agencies. In the current political crisis, this will ensure that a full range of viewpoints is represented.
The professional membership of the FCCT urges the Thai authorities to reconsider censorship of media reporting, and drop the threats made against these particular media organisations.