TJA protests government's "excessive abuse of its executive power to intimidate media"
(TJA/IFEX) - The following is an 8 March 2002 press release by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), of which TJA is a member:
On Monday, the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) will submit an open letter to Senate Chairman Manoonkrit Roopkachorn, urging the top legislative body to impeach the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for alleged excessive abuse of its executive power, aimed at intimidating the media.
The move followed a series of outrageous protests among local press and rights advocates over the past week against the suspension of radio programs of Nation Multimedia Group on frequency 90.5 MHz, owned by the Defense Energy Department. The programs feature several talk shows which are constantly critical of the government.
On Wednesday TJA launched a signature campaign to gather support for the move. It hopes to gather some 1,000 signatures, representing chorus support from local journalists, media operators and rights advocate groups.
The letter and the signature list will also be sent to House Speaker Uthai Pimchaichon. If the move gathers steam it could lead to a call for the impeachment of the Thaksin administration.
"It is obvious that since its assumption to office early last year, the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has abused its power in various forms to threaten media freedom," the letter said.
The letter said their previous appeals for the government to cease these unconstitutional actions seemed to fall on deaf ears. "Far from regretting their past actions, the government embarks on tactics deemed contrary to the spirit of the 1997 Constitution by taking harsher actions against the critical media," said the letter.
On Tuesday, the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) instructed 17 financial institutions to investigate the bank accounts of the managers of The Nation, Naew Na and Thai Post newspapers and their family members. The three newspapers constantly run articles critical of the Thaksin government.
Thaksin denied any knowledge of the move and instead ordered an investigation into the Amlo order, suggesting the check list which included prominent journalists could be unauthentic.
In a joint open letter to Thaksin, TJA the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association and the Committee to Campaign for Media Reform said the Thaksin government repeatedly suspended radio and television programs which aired negative views against his government.
"The recurrence of this incident was attributed to the government's ignorance of broadcast media reform as guided under the present constitution. Moreover it failed to spell out a clear policy towards media freedom," said the letter.
The Defense Energy Department was urged to clearly explain its decision to suspend the Nation group's radio programs and spell out its clear commitment towards freedom of expression and press freedom stipulated under Article 39 and 41 of the constitution.