By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Senior Staff Writer
For the Thai mass media, last year was an uneasy one, filled with “paranoia” as the military junta continues to want to “strictly control” the media, through summoning, detention without charge, verbal attacks and even threats to punch reporters’ faces, Thai Journalists Association’s annual report for 2015 on the topic concluded.
The association said the various measures used by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the formal name of the military junta which staged the coup in May 2014, in a bid to control the media, was made worse by the negative attitude held by junta leaders towards the media.
Article 44 of the junta’s provisional constitution, under which the NCPO leader has absolute power, can affect the exercising of press freedom by using it to summon journalists, detain them and to seek “cooperation” from the media.
On June 11, 2015, eight newspapers editors were summoned to meet with junta representatives. On Aug. 25, eighteen newspapers editors were summoned and between September 13 and 15, a senior journalist at The Nation newspaper, a reference to this writer who was working there at that time, was summoned and detained incommunicado at an undisclosed location without charge. This was followed by the summoning of political cartoonist Sakda Sae Eaw, of Thairath newspaper on Oct. 4, although he was not detained.
The list doesn’t end there. On Oct. 27, the media association noted that a journalist from prachatai.com was summoned and accompanied by TJA representatives who observed the meeting, but the journalist was not detained.
“The summoning of journalists throughout 2015 reflects that the government is closely monitoring and controlling expression both of the mass media and the people, and in some cases, they were not able to explain or clarify the reasons for summoning. This condition leads to a state of ‘uncertainty, uneasiness and paranoia’ among all groups in society,” the report noted.
The association also detailed 11 verbal transgressions made by junta-leader-cum-prime-minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha over the past year.
On March 6, 2015, Prayuth was reported as saying at a seminar that he “wants to punch reporters’ faces”, after he was upset by reporters’ perceived failure to do their homework before asking questions.
On March 25, Prayuth threatened to use his absolute power to shut down media organizations.
On Sep. 9, Prayuth accused social media users of inciting a mass mobilization against the regime.
On November 5, while presiding over a feature news competition awards ceremony, Prayuth accused some media organizations of being a threat to national security and causing divisions in society that would lead to the disintegration of the country.
The last comment from the report about 2015, concerned Prayuth reportedly telling the media to stop blowing up the news of alleged corruption related to the army-constructed Rajabhakti Park, where gigantic statues of past kings have been built amidst claims of kickbacks.