January 8, 2002
His Excellency Thaksin Shinawatra
VIA FASCIMILE: 66-2-282-8587
The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply disturbed by the banning of the January 10 issue of the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review. This act of censorship by your government is out of character with Thailand’s commitment to press freedom.
Maj. Gen. Treethos Ronlitthiwichai, the chief of a police department that oversees press affairs, yesterday issued the order banning the sale and distribution of the January 10 edition of the weekly magazine, according to news reports. In banning the issue, which had already been on sale in Thailand since last Thursday, January 3, police officials cited the 1941 Publishing Act, which allows authorities to censor statements or articles that “might lead to social and national disorder.”
The article in question was a one-paragraph item in the magazine’s “Intelligence” section, which commented upon reported tensions between your office and the Thai Royal Palace. Much of the information was based on a December 5 speech by King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the occasion of his birthday. The Thai press reported that the speech criticized Your Excellency’s performance as prime minister.
As an organization of journalists committed to defending the principle of free expression worldwide, CPJ is alarmed that a widely respected regional magazine would be banned for any reason.
Thailand has often demonstrated its serious commitment to press freedom and open government, and any backtracking from that commitment is deeply worrisome. We are particularly concerned by the use of the 1941 Publishing Act, a law that the Thai Journalists Association and others have criticized as being out of step with the press freedom guarantees contained in the 1997 Constitution.
We respectfully call on Your Excellency to lift the order banning the sale of the Far Eastern Economic Review and to reaffirm your commitment to press freedom. We also urge you to support the repeal of the 1941 Publishing Act.
Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters. We await your reply.