Reporters Without Borders condemns the violence against journalists by Red Shirt demonstrators and the government’s continual violation of the right to information. Thailand has rarely experienced the level of violence that was reached today, just hours after the army staged its assault on the Bangkok district occupied by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s supporters.
The press freedom organization is also every worried by the fact that the activities of journalists in Thailand have been brought to a virtual standstill.
“The right to information is more important than ever when a country is in crisis, as Thailand is at the moment,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“International law clearly states that journalists cannot be military targets. We are outraged to see the media being repeatedly targeted by both the army and demonstrators. We urge the Thai government to restore order without delay and to lift the media censorship.”
Reporters Without Borders now offers a summary of the latest developments in the media situation in a country that is currently paralysed:
Anti-government demonstrators today set fire to the Bangkok headquarters of Channel 3 television, where around 100 people were trapped inside. A helicopter was used to evacuate employees. At least 10 vehicles parked outside were damaged.
The two biggest English-speaking dailies, The Bangkok Post and The Nation, sent all their employees home at 3 p.m. for fear that their premises could be attacked by Red Shirts.
Almost all local journalists have chosen not to go on to the streets to cover the situation because of their concern about the risks, which are real. Journalists are getting their information from social networks and by telephone, and from people trapped in the Wat Pathum Wanaram temple adjoining the square where the Red Shirts had gathered. Only a few foreign reporters are still on the ground.
Facebook and Twitter, which have been functioning as alternative sources of news at a time when the TV stations were just broadcasting government-controlled programming, were blocked by the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) for more than an hour. Satit Wongnongtoey, Minister of Information and Communication Technology, denied this information.
Canadian freelance journalist and researcher Chandler Vandergrift was seriously injured by shrapnel from an exploding grenade. He was still hospitalised at the Bangkok Christian hospital.
Under a newly-introduced curfew, Bangkok residents cannot leave their homes between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.