From left to right;
Pa Ngoun Teang, Executive Director of Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM);
Virgilio da Silva Guterres, the President of Timor Leste Press Council;
Eko Mayardi, President of Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA);
Chavarong Limpattamapanee, President of The Press Council of Thailand and the Consultant of Thai Journalist Association (TJA);
Chak Sopheap, Executive Director of Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
Statement of Support for Thai Journalists
SEAPA Against All Efforts to Roll Back Media Freedom in Thailand
On behalf of the SEAPA Board, I would like to express our deep concern over recent developments in Thailand, particularly with regard to the proposed the “Protection of Media Rights and Freedom, and Promotion of Ethics and Professional Standards” bill to regulate the media.
Over the years we have been closely watching Thailand as the space for freedom of expression, including press freedom, has been increasingly restricted since the military coup in May 2014. Civil society and the media have been unable to freely do their work to provide accountability to the government because of military government policies and often through direct intimidation of critics.
Thailand has been very important for freedom of expression in Southeast Asia, which is dominated by countries with limited spaces for the media and free expression.
Today, we are deeply troubled that the current military government is seemingly seeking to make these restrictions permanent. Requiring a certificate of practice for journalism, media registration, and state representation in a the proposed National Professional Media Council all go against the core principles of press freedom. It is quite alarming, for instance, the state-sanctioned media council will have jurisdiction over existing complaint mechanisms for individual journalists, media outlets, and professional media groups.
These measures will place the media under state control, not only under the present government, but also succeeding ones. Based on experience in the region, these measures have been used arbitrarily against reporters who write critically against state policy and politicians.
We would like to remind the government of Thailand these measures undermine the media’s role to be able to fulfill its role as the fourth estate, to serve as channel of the voice of the people to keep government and their elected representatives under watch.
This World Press Freedom Day of 2017, we express our solidarity with our colleagues in the media in Thailand, particularly the campaign of the Thai Journalist Association and its allied organizations in opposing the draft media bill and resisting efforts to roll back media freedoms that were gained 20 years ago.
We repeat and fully support their call to stop the draft bill and efforts to muzzle the media.
President of Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Jakarta, 3 May 2017