23 February 2004
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), the Bangkok-based press advocacy group, expresses grave concern over the removal of Veera Prateepchaikul as editor of the Bangkok Post as part of what is widely seen as the government and big business’ scheme to muzzle Thailand’s independent media.
SEAPA sees the move as a not too subtle warning to the Thai press in general to tone down its critical reporting of the Thaksin government.
Veera was relieved of his post on Friday, February 20, purportedly as part of the newspaper’s business expansion, and was appointed deputy editor-in-chief of the Post Publishing to help oversee editorial direction, administration and business development.
Despite denials by the Post Publishing Plc that the change of editorship was a result of political pressure, Thai media believes the removal of Veera, who is also chairman of the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), is part of concerted efforts of the Thaksin administration, which has shown no qualms in meddling in media’s editorial policies, to rein in independent media.
Last year, an editor of Prachachart Thurakij, a Thai language business daily was sidelined to an inactive position after the paper published a series of exposes on Thaksin’s asset concealment case and other reports on corruption. The Nation Multimedia Group’s editor and other senior editors were likewise shuffled to inactive posts following their sharp and constant comments about the Thaksin government’s mishandling of foreign and economic policies.
Thailand’ first independent cable television, iTV, was the first casualty of government’s increasing interference in media through the commercial backdoor after the Shin Co, the giant telecom business company associated with Thaksin bought into the new organization. The once news-orientated station has become like a government mouthpiece. Last year, family members of a Thai Cabinet minister acquired an 11 per cent stake the Nation Multimedia Group
SEAPA, the region’s first independent media advocacy group, joins the TJA and other media organizations in demanding more transparency and accountability from the Post management in the Veera case.
We call for an end to media meddling by government agencies and business interests either through direct interference in editorial policy as in the case of iTV, or through subtle but more insidious means like the case of Veera’s removal.
Echoing the February 23 editorial by the Nation, SEAPA believes it would be in the interest of any good, respectable and tolerant leader to ensure that a station like iTV kept to its original mission as a news station and that the credibility of the Bangkok Post , one of the country’s windows to outside world, not be impaired.
SEAPA calls on the Thaksin government to demonstrate fairness and more openness by allowing Thai media to function responsibly and independently and to adhere to the spirit of media freedom and reform mandated by the 1997 Constitution.
SEAPA calls on Thai journalists to continue the crusade for good governance and greater press freedom.