''BERLUSCONI-STYLE" TACTICS THREATEN PRESS FREEDOM
SEAPA and IFJ have raised alarm over a libel suit launched by Thai telecommunications conglomerate Shin Corp against media reform campaigner Supinya Klangnarong and the daily "Thai Post." Shin Corp, whose largest shareholder is the family of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, owns the iTV television station and AIS, the country's biggest Internet service provider and mobile phone company. On 22 June 2004, a Thai court agreed to consider the libel suit.
Shin Corp alleges that Supinya, who heads the Campaign for Popular Media Reform, and three editors of the "Thai Post," conspired to publish a libelous statement against the company, reports SEAPA. The charge stems from a 16 July 2003 story in the "Thai Post" in which Supinya said she had done research showing that Shin Corp was a major beneficiary of Thaksin's policies. She said that since Thaksin became prime minister in February 2001, the company's profits have soared by almost 40 billion Thai baht (US$980 million).
SEAPA says the court's decision to consider the libel action could set a worrying precedent in which the government could use libel suits more frequently in the future to silence critics. The IFJ has written to Shin Corp and the Thai government calling for the libel suit to be dropped. The organisation says the situation in Thailand mirrors what is going in Italy, where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has come under fierce criticism for using his extensive media holdings to silence journalists critical of his government policies.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1) Write to the Thai government using SEAPA's action alert as a guide: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/59718/
2) Stay informed. Visit these links:
- SEAPA: http://www.seapabkk.org/
- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=2576&Language=EN
- Inter Press Service: