Tough Media Visa Rules Meant to Discourage ‘Inaccurate Reporting’

A crowd of foreign correspondents take photos of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Feb. 12 at her residence in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — The Thai military government today explained that it placed new restrictions on the application of foreign journalist visas as a measure to crack down on ‘inaccurate reporting’ about Thailand.

The tougher media visa regulation will only target ‘fake reporters’ and those who cause damage to Thailand with their coverage, said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Don Pramudwinai. 

“Many foreign correspondents who live in Thailand are not proper reporters. They don’t have agencies,” Don told reporters at Government House on Tuesday. “Sometimes, they report inaccurate information that causes damage to Thailand.” 

Ministry Denies Targeting Foreign Media With New Rules

He added, “As far as I know, of all the 500 foreign correspondents in Thailand, only 10 percent have issues. But it doesn’t mean all of them won’t be able to extend their visas. If these 10 percenter can explain about their agencies, they will be able to extend their visas.”

Enacted on Feb. 18, the new visa rule effectively bans freelance journalists from working in Thailand, as it requires applicants to work “full time as a correspondent of a news agency” and be  “employed by a news agency registered with the competent agency of either Thai or foreign government.”

The rule also includes a vaguely-worded ban on “work or behavior which indicates possible harm to the public or constituting any disruption to the public order or to the security of the Kingdom.”

In response to the new regulations, the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Thailand issued a statement expressing concern over the policy, which may “impede freedom of reporting.”

“We urge the Thai authorities to interpret the guidelines in a way that enables all bona fide journalists to be properly accredited and report freely and fairly,” the Feb. 18 statement said. “Thailand has long been a media hub for the region, and foreign journalists based in Bangkok have contributed to a better global understanding of the Asia-Pacific region.”

But spokesman Don said today freedom of reporting won’t be affected by the new restrictions. 

“I believe that these restrictions won’t make foreigners think we restrict foreign media rights,” Don said. “Quite the contrary. Thailand has the most media freedom in the Asian region, because Thais are compassionate and relaxed. We are not strict like Indonesia or Vietnam.”

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Teeranai Charuvastra can be reached at [email protected] and @Teeranai_C.