24 May 2011

Campaigns and Advocacy

A year after riots, journalists still face safety concerns and impunity issues


(SEAPA/IFEX) - 19 May 2011 - Exactly one year ago today, the Thai military launched its dispersal operations against the Red Shirt protest rally, which had been going on for three months. The media became a casualty in the conflict, which saw 92 people, including two photographers, being killed and many others wounded.

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance, together with the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), ISRA Institute and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA), hosted a forum on 16 May 2011 to reflect on the year that has passed and what lessons could be drawn from covering the clashes.

SEAPA Executive Director Gayathry Venkiteswaran said the forum was an opportunity for the media and civil society to have a dialogue about the challenges confronting the media, and the lessons that can be drawn from the experience last year as well as trends in the Southeast Asian region.

The forum gathered together 10 speakers from the media, civil society and academe to reflect on the implications of last year's political events for Thai media.

Of paramount concern is the safety of journalists in covering conflict. Of the 92 people killed over the three months in which the protest rallies ran its course, two were foreign journalists. Several Thai media workers and foreign journalists were also wounded by gunshots and grenade shrapnel.

TV Thai News Director Korkhet Chantalertluk, who had been out in the streets covering the clashes between the military and the protesters a year ago, said many Thai journalists did not expect the level of violence to be that bad.

"Thai media never experienced this kind of conflict before. Many journalists have no experience covering such an event. Nobody expected the heavy use of automatic rifles and grenades," he said.

TJA President Chavarong Limpattamapanee agreed, observing that the rallies last year "were not just peaceful gatherings but had a hidden political agenda, backed by an armed militia."

Media executives likewise said that this kind of violence could only be expected in the border areas or in the southern Thai provinces. Hence, many media outlets and journalists were caught flat-footed by the intensity of the violence.

Though bulletproof vests and helmets were distributed among the Thai journalists, these were inadequate and could not be easily procured at short notice.

Speaking on the threats to the foreign photographers who were killed, Chavarong said it could be that they could not anticipate the extent and danger of the clashes, and that the Thai journalists were more in tune with what was going on in the ground.

He said that according to his sources, slain Italian photojournalist Fabio Polenghi might have been mistaken for a Red Shirt militia (called 'Black Shirts' or 'Ronin') because he was wearing a black outfit over military-style camouflage pants.

( . . . )

To read the full press release, click here


Putting free expression issues in perspective.

Sign up to receive IFEX In Context.

 
More from Thailand
  • Freedom on the Net 2017: Thailand

    Military courts sentenced at least two internet users to more than a decade each in prison, one based on private chat messages criticizing royalty

  • Freedom of the Press 2017: Thailand

    In December [2016], the government approved an amendment to the 2007 Computer Crimes Act (CCA) that expanded authorities’ power to monitor internet activity and censor online content.

  • Thailand HRW Report: Events of 2016

    During the year, the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta curtailed the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly through repressive laws such the Referendum Act, the Computer Crime Act, and article 116 of the penal code on sedition, as well as NCPO orders censoring media and preventing public gatherings of more than five people.

 
More from Asia & Pacific
  • TRUTH VS MISINFORMATION: THE COLLECTIVE PUSH BACK

    SOUTH ASIA PRESS FREEDOM REPORT 2018-2019

  • The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14

    Journalism in South Asia is far from an easy profession, as the 12th annual review of journalism in the region "The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14" portrays. But this year's report also tells the story of the courage of South Asia's journalists to defend press freedom and to ensure citizens' right to information and freedom of expression in the face of increasing challenges to the profession and personal safety.

  • THE STORIES WOMEN JOURNALISTS TELL: Women in Media in South Asia

    The report is the first created by the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) looking specifically at the experience of women journalists in the South Asia sub-region


At this point, would publish cover: "Home page"
 
IFEX is a global network of committed organisations working to defend and promote free expression.
Permission is granted for material on this website to be reproduced or republished in whole or in part provided the source member and/or IFEX is cited with a link to the original item.