26 August 2008
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance
The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) joins its member, the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), in condemning a mob attack on a state-run television station in Bangkok.
The forced closure of Thailand’s National Broadcasting Television (NBT) on 26 August 2008, is unjustifiable and goes against the principles of democracy, free flow of information, and fair play that the protesters themselves have invoked to justify their illegal act.
This morning, 26 August 2008, the compound of the NBT was raided by a group of armed men claiming to represent the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). Journalists and staff of the NBT were forced to suspend their work and broadcasts.
The protesters said they raided the station because it was a mouthpiece of government. In truth, all they achieved was to obstruct the flow of information to the public.
SEAPA concurs with the TJA which, in a joint statement with the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA) and the Confederation of Thai Journalists, said: “The mob action is one of the gravest and most blatant assaults on media freedom to date. The media was threatened, intimidated and kept from performing their duty.”
SEAPA is one with the Thai journalism community in finding the demonstrators’ raid on NBT “unacceptable”.
The use of force to gain control of NBT’s compound and facilities, and the cutting of the station’s broadcasts is, as TJA notes, not only an illegal attack on a government facility, but equally an assault on a media organization. This perpetuates a culture of intolerance and denigrates the values of plurality as well as the safety of journalists, both of which are crucial to genuine press freedom and the free flow of information. Against this, even the protesters’ argument that NBT is a “government mouthpiece” can in no way justify their deplorable behaviour.
SEAPA joins the Thai journalist organizations in respecting the right of Thais to peaceful and unarmed assembly under the current Constitution. At the same time, we echo their message that the protestors should “equally respect the right and freedom of the media to perform their duty which is guaranteed under the same Constitution.”