23 February 2004
"Bangkok Post" editor removed from his position
(TJA/IFEX) - The following is a 20 February 2004 news release by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), of which TJA is a member:
SEAPA Says the Removal of Bangkok Post Editor is an Infringement on Press Freedom
February 20, 2004
The Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) today protested against the Bangkok Post management committee's decision to remove its editor, Veera Pratheepchaikul, deeming it an infringement on press freedom.
The move also brings into question government interference in the newspaper's editorial independence, as has increasingly been the case for several Thai newspapers that have been critical of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's government.
SEAPA calls on the Bangkok Post's management committee to explain the reasons for its action so as not to put the newspaper's well-founded credibility at stake. The Bangkok Post is the nation's top English-language newspaper and professes to be "The Newspaper You Can Trust".
The Post management committee today told its editorial staff that the removal was deemed an appropriate measure, taken as part of its overall business expansion scheme.
It also sought to allay the staff's concern that the action signals an increase in management interference in editorial policy.
According to a source within the newspaper, Veera will become deputy editor-in-chief, a newly created position to assist current editor-in-chief Pitchai Chuensuksawas. The 57-year-old Veera is to be replaced by his deputy, Kovit Sanandang.
Earlier, Thai local dailies quoted sources within the Bangkok Post as saying Veera's removal was triggered primarily by the newspaper's frequent negative reports and harsh criticisms of the government. Since Veera assumed the position, the newspaper has been carrying negative reports about Thaksin - from asset concealment charges to remarks the king made on his 72nd birthday, which were critical of Thaksin's policies and performance.
The sources said the change of position was also linked to internal conflicts within the editorial department and Veera's alleged failure to implement the newspaper's business expansion plan.
The sources also said Veera's removal had been premeditated for some time but that management feared the move would stir up internal resistance if undertaken without proper justification.
The Thai Journalists Association (TJA) today issued a statement saying the removal of Veera, who is currently TJA's chairman, was undoubtedly "unusual" since Veera has been behind the newspaper's straightforward commentaries about the government.
"The government leader was not satisfied with those reports and let this be known [to the management committee] on many occasions," TJA was quoted as saying. TJA said the removal could be politically motivated.
TJA called on the management committee to explain its actions to the public so as to ensure accountability with respect to the decision. It cited one of the association's principles as being to promote and preserve freedom of expression. "The fact that Veera is also TJA's chairman has caused widespread criticism [against his removal]," the TJA statement said.
SEAPA is the region's first independent media advocacy group. Founded in 1998, it comprises five independent media organizations in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.