Freedom of Press in Thailand: Getting Worse?

After reading an opinion piece in today Daily Tarheel about press freedom, I wonder where is Thailand in the press freedom ranking (Too bad, the DTH does not include Thailand in the table). One could easily imagine that the ranking should be worse since the coup.

In the latest ranking done by Reporters Without Borders, French-based association for press freedom, Thailand is ranked 122th place with 33,50 index score. However, the ranking do NOT include the situation after the coup since the data were collected based on the events between September 1, 2005 and September 1, 2006. The method covers 50 criteria including “every kind of violation directly affecting journalists (such as murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats) and news media (censorship, confiscation of issues, searches and harassment).”

Well, does the 122th place tell something then?

The number 122 could not tell something without its context, right? Here are some contexts I can grab.

168 countries are ranked in this report. For Thailand’s neighboring countries, Indonesia is ranked 103th, Cambodia 108th, Malaysia 92nd, Philippines 142nd, Vietnam 155th, and Burma (not surprisingly) 164th.

The data is based on the time when the political turmoils were very intense, especially between ousted Prime Minister Thaksin and Sonthi, an opponent leader who have media on hand.

Thaksin has been “accused of using his political and economic power to silence dissenting voices and curbing freedom of speech based on the fact that he has direct authority over the state-owned TV stations while his family controls the other broadcast TV channels.” (Wikipedia on Censorship in Thailand, Nov. 2, 2006)

There were a lot of legal cases between Thaksin government and media, especially those who explicitly were Thaksin’s opponents.

“On 11 October 2005, Thaksin sued Manager newspaper for THB 500 million. (news source) As monks have traditionally been above criticism, Thaksin did not sue Luang Ta Maha Bua. “This is an exercise of an individual’s right to protect his reputation and privacy. The newspaper did not criticise the prime minister fairly as a public official, but rather it took him to task personally, using harsh words, which was damaging to him,” Thana Benjathikul, Thaksin’s lawyer said.” (source: Wikipedia on Thailand political crisis 2005-2006, Nov. 2, 2006)

In terms of longitudinal context, 2006 is the worst year for the press in Thailand.

  • 2002 – 65th with score 22.75 (tied with Madagascar)
  • 2003 – 82th with score 19.67 (following Thai neighbor, Cambodia placed on 81th rank.)
  • 2004 – 59th with score 14,00
  • 2005 – 107th with score 28,00
  • 2006 – 122th with score 33,50

It seems like 2004 is the best year for Thai press. Comparing only the ranking sounds not quite right. For example, in 2003 the ranking of Thai press was worse than the one in 2002. However, the less score mean the more freedom of the press which mean the freedom score in 2003 is better than the one in 2002. Thus, it seems likely that in 2003 it was a better year for press in overall. However, I am not quite sure about the reliability of these scores over years. Therefore, this is just an observation, not the empirical evidence until I got confirmed by the researcher.

Please note that the data source are Reporters Without Borders’ partner organizations “and its 130 correspondents around the world, as well as to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists“. I do not know the data source for Thailand which would definitely affect the reliability of the index. Anyway, it seems likely that the political turmoil made some media explicitly in the news rather reporting the news.

2006 Questionaire

Note: The list of freedom predators and its black list are also interesting.

Well, I guess we have to wait for the next year then to see the “coup” will make “democracy” or “democrazy”.

2 responses to “Freedom of Press in Thailand: Getting Worse?

  1. Pingback: Blocking the Net: Status of Thailand « iTeau’s Dirt·

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