SEAPA Statement: Government should respect press freedom; media must uphold fairness and accuracy

5 May 2009

The following is a joint statement issued by SEAPA and its founding member in Thailand, the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) and other Thai media groups on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day:

Joint Statement on World Press Freedom Day: Media freedom should help reduce violence

We, the media professional groups and allies in Thailand, observe the third day of May as World Press Freedom Day as designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

This event reaffirms the spirit and letter of media freedom around the world and engages the people of every country to acknowledge the importance of the media and to recognize that freedom of expression is a fundamental right of every individual. Media freedom is the people’s freedom.

We realize the importance of this day and would like to propose the following:

1. The government must not take any direct or indirect action to interfere with the media’s duty and to block the flow of information through any means such as the Internet, satellite television and community radios.

Any media outlets found violating the law shall be dealt with in accordance with due legal process and in a transparent, fair and non-discriminatory manner, without resorting to any illegal means to limit freedom of opinions.

2. The government must be sincere in reforming the laws that pose obstacles to freedom of expression of the people and accepting pluralism in the media in providing different perspectives in news and information and opinions to benefit the public’s right to information.

3. Politicians, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate and adherents of opposing political camps must understand the role and the duty of the media in seeking news and the truth for the benefit of the public. All sides must stop inciting people to go against the media by all means, including halting the use of the media to propagate and incite violence or exacerbate the conflict.

4. The public must be considerate in receiving news and information and be open-minded to listen to difference views of the media outlets. They should exercise great caution in receiving information from the media especially those used as tools by political groups, and those issuing biased and prejudiced reports, with the intention of creating rifts and instigate the use of violence in resolving conflicts.

5.       All media outlets, especially those used as tools of political groups, must not slant their reports which would only result in more conflicts and violence. They must uphold professional ethics and take into account the principles of accuracy and fairness to all sides, and not resort to competition in order to avoid confusion and misunderstanding among the public.

All signatories to this statement insist that freedom of expression of the people and of the media are important to the development of Thai democracy. All forms of actions by any sides that infringe upon freedom of expression of the people and of the media are not acceptable.

Bangkok, 3 May 2009

The Press Council of Thailand

Federation of Thai Journalists

Thai Journalists Association

Thai Broadcast Journalists Association

Thai Economic Reporters Association

Thai Webmasters Association

Association of Thai Cable Operators

Southeast Asian Press Alliance

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