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Thailand 4 October 2006

Open letter to interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont about press freedom violations

Dear Prime Minister,

Reporters Without Borders, an international organisation that defends press freedom worldwide, would like to draw your attention to the plight of the news media in Thailand, where 300 radio stations and several websites have been closed since 19 September and where there is now an interim constitution that has not rescinded decrees imposing restrictions on the media and banning political activity and gatherings of more than five people.

Articles 39, 40 and 41 of the 1997 constitution, which guaranteed press freedom, should have been maintained in the provisional constitution. The drafting of the future constitution cannot take place without a free debate relayed by the media. The construction of a lasting democracy depends on the development of independent media.

We deplore the self-censorship steadily taking hold in television since the military ordered journalists to be “cooperative in maintaining order.” It has, for example, become impossible to broadcast the personal views of editorialists or SMS comments sent in by viewers. It would also be regrettable if foreign TV stations were censored in the future as CNN and the BBC already have been.

Some 300 community radio stations are still shut down or censored, especially in the north of the country. Seventeen provinces had these mainly AM stations. Reporters Without Borders joins the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters in condemning these retrograde measures.

A website set up by students at Bangkok’s Midnight University, www.midnightuniv.org, was blocked on 29 September. It functioned as a forum for discussing the restrictions on civil liberties imposed by the military. When Thai Internet users now try to access this online publication, they find the following message: “The page is temporarily blocked because this forum contained messages insulting the monarchy.”

An article posted on the BBC’s site at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5367936.stm has been rendered inaccessible for people within Thailand. Headlined “Thai king remains centre stage,” it analyses the political role being played by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has reigned since 1946. Anyone trying to reach this page is now automatically redirected to this address : http://cyberinspector.org/iiiiikkkiiiiikkiikkkii/index2.php.

The 19 September Anti Coup Network website (http://www.19sep.org/) was closed down by its host company at the information ministry’s behest on 21 September on the grounds that it was “in violation of rules imposed by the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM).”

Launched on 20 September, the site aimed to be a place for exchanging news and views. Following its closure, its webmasters initiated judicial proceedings with the aim of having it reopened. On 27 September, the ministry confirmed the closure of more than 10 websites alleged to be violating CDRM regulations.

We trust you will give this matter your careful consideration.

Respectfully,

Robert Ménard Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General


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In this country
20 May - Thailand
Internet censorship to be followed by censorship of radio and TV
29 April - Thailand
Reporters Without Borders and 31 other organisations urge Thai government to amend lese majeste law
27 April - Thaïland
Censorship lifted on some websites
3 April - Thaïland
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3 March - Thailand
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