Petition Asks Gov’t to Allow Media Coverage in Curfew

A policeman question curfew violators in Bangkok on April 5, 2020.

BANGKOK — A media guild on Monday said it petitioned the Prime Minister to reconsider a ban on media field reporting during the nighttime curfew.

A letter issued by the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand, or FCCT, urged PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to exempt reporters in the field from the curfew regulations, which bars anyone from leaving their residence except those working in listed essential jobs. The club said the media have an obligation to report on the coronavirus measures and their impact on society.

“We are keenly aware that all sectors of society are deeply affected by the virus threat, and all of us – including the media – must support the government’s efforts to safeguard public health,” FCCT president Gwen Robinson said via an email. “At the same time [we] also believe that the media – Thai and foreign – have a duty to inform the public at this grave time, not just to relay official figures but to report on measures to contain the virus and their impact on society.”

She added, “Around the world, now, media coverage inside hospitals, emergency centres and curfew zones is bringing home the enormity of this threat and providing vital information to people everywhere. It is in this context we have issued this appeal, and our best wishes to the government in leading our fight against this deadly disease.”

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam previously said the media will not be allowed outside when the curfew comes into effect each night. Violators of the curfew orders face up to two years in prison.

Several media outlets also said they were told to secure special permission from Chief of Defence Forces Gen. Pornpipat Benyasri if they want to work outside during the curfew hours.

But the letter sent by FCCT to the Prime Minister’s Office said press ID cards issued by the authorities should be sufficient for media personnel.

“We sincerely hope that presentation of an official Thai government-issued press ID card will enable all journalists to do this, and allow them to fulfill their proper roles during the present crisis,” part of the letter said.

The petition is supported by Matichon Group, which owns Khaosod English, and several other Thai media agencies.