Reporters Without Borders condemns the forced closure or military intervention in at least ten TV stations in the capital after martial law was declared today. Soldiers stormed into MV5, DNN, UDD TV, Asia Update, P&P Channel, 4 Channel, Bluesky TV, FMTV, T News and ASTV and ordered them to stop broadcasting to prevent “distorted” reports. A new release from the army announced the closure of four other television stations, including Voice TV.
Unlicensed community radio stations were also ordered to stop broadcasting.
The correspondents of several foreign newspapers nonetheless reported that programmes continued to be broadcast on targeted TV stations, albeit with regular interruptions in order to read out announcements in which the army insists that it has not carried out a coup d’état.
“The military intervention in the TV stations has been carried out in a completely illegal manner,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. “If the army wants the media to provide the public with information, it just has to send them its statements. It does not need to take over newsrooms.”
Ismaïl added: “What’s more, this way of behaving is counter-productive. Many media and Internet users are concerned about the way the situation is evolving and the real goals pursued by the army, which has acted without consulting the government. We call on the army to allow all TV stations to cover the political situation freely.”
According to Reporters Without Borders’ correspondent, soldiers have taken up position around all TV stations, including those that are not being censored, in order to ensure the regular transmission of military communiqués.
An army communiqué giving “national security” as the grounds for imposing censorship has been sent to all TV stations (about 40 in all). The censorship seems to have been applied to both anti-government stations such as Bluesky and ASTV and pro-government stations such as Asia Update and P&P in equal measure.
Officially, martial law has been declared in order to “restore peace and order” in a country that has been embroiled in a political crisis for more than six months.
After Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s removal on 9 May, her opponents marched on government headquarters and the main TV stations, demanding that they stop broadcasting government announcements and instead broadcast those of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, a political pressure group opposed to the Shinawatra family.
Thailand is ranked 130th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.