The FCCT and six Thai media organisations including the TJA have issued the statements today, expressing such the opposition while urging the authorities to drop the threat for the sake of the public interest.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) in its statement issued in the afternoon urged the authorities to reconsider “censorship” of media reporting, and drop the threats made against particular media organisations.
It said the organisation was deeply concerned over an order from the Royal Thai Police to investigate four Thai media outlets, accompanied by a threat to suspend these outlets if they are found to have published materials that undermine national security.
The four outlets Voice TV, Prachathai, The Reporters and The Standard, mostly online-based, have been named by the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the new order issued on Friday by its head, Police Chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, as having published some contents “deemed to undermine national security”, which is prohibited under the emergency’s announcements.
The center has instructed the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry to probe into the cases and consider taking action, whether suspending broadcasting or removing the contents of those outlets from the data storage.
No particular contents are addressed to the public by the center, however.
The EOC was set up following the declaration of the State of Emergency on Thursday morning, which aims to put the ongoing protests under control.
In the press briefing today too, it has tried to downplay concerns over infringement on press freedom, saying it is just “managing” the media operations not “controlling ”
”We do not have any policies to infringe or curb press freedom but have to take action to prevent public frustrations in this state of emergency,” said Pol Maj Gen Jaruwat Vaisaya, Police Chief Assistant.
The media organisations, however, are not convinced.
The FCCT said in the issued statement; “A free media is an essential element in any democratic society, and bona fide journalists should be allowed to report important developments without the threat of bans, suspensions, censorship or prosecution hanging over them.”
The FCCT viewed that the point addressed by the center was overly broad, and could easily be abused to silence reporting that “is accurate but makes the government uncomfortable”.
This move, it further pointed, is also likely to be ineffective and counterproductive in an age of social media where there are far too many ways, in which information and comments of uncertain quality can be disseminated to censor. This is therefore not the time to interfere with the work of professional and accountable journalists, it said.
“It makes the government appear heavy-handed and unresponsive to criticism, and could stir up even more public anger,” said the FCCT, while requesting for the reconsideration.
“Responsible media always welcome engagement with representatives of the government and law enforcement agencies. In the current political crisis, this will ensure that a full range of viewpoints is represented,” it pointed.
The six Thai media organisations, meanwhile, have also expressed a similar stance, saying they oppose media infringement or threats against press freedom by any organisations or agencies.
Such the order, they pointed in the statement, could violate the Constitution regarding press freedom protection. The state, they added, cannot excessively enforce laws against news reporting without founded evidence.
Press freedom infringement, they pointed, means an infringement of people’s rights to information, and this could draw more of one-sided information that drives more violent gatherings.
The organisation also urged the media members to perform their tasks professionally without instigating hatred and violence with one-sided information.
As reported by the DES, however, it has already made a request for the court warrants to accompany its action if the EOC order is officially submitted to it.
The media outlets, meanwhile, have insisted on adherence of journalistic codes of conduct and principles. Some said they would continue working professionally with those codes of conduct and principles despite the threats imposed against them.