CPJ condemns censorship of two Web sites

New York, June 28, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Thai government’s censorship of two political news Web sites and the harassment of outspoken radio journalist Anchalee Paireerak, who quit as host of the program “Thailand Review” and intends to go into exile in response to the intimidation.

“Shutting down two Web sites that have been critical of the government is a blatant violation of the press freedom guaranteed by the constitution of Thailand,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on the government to stop its harassment and intimidation of Anchalee Paireerak and other independent journalists.”

The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT) issued an order on June 18 to shut down www.thai-insider.com and www.fm9225.com for allegedly threatening national security and disturbing public order, and for allegedly failing to register the owners’ names properly, according to local and international news reports.

FM 92.25 began streaming programming on its Web site after authorities warned the station in April that its broadcast tower was too high and interfered with aviation communications. After complying with government orders to lower its transmission tower, the station had only limited range on the airwaves.

On June 20, the site’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) refused to carry the Web site, citing the MICT order. One day later, the site found another ISP, which also received the order to discontinue the FM92.25 site. Anchalee, program director and former host of some of its most critical shows, told CPJ today that FM92.25 was streaming its programs through a third ISP.

The government said its attempts to restrict this and other community radio stations were not politically motivated, according to news reports.

Anchalee, who had been outspoken in her criticism of Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, quit hosting her program “Thailand Review” on June 23 and announced her intention to go into exile. Anchalee told CPJ that her reporting and commentary on political issues had made her a government target. “The prime minister only likes good news,” she said.

Government critic and anti-corruption activist Ekkayuth Anchabutr runs www.thai-insider.com, a text Web site launched earlier this month that carries news, interviews and commentary. Ekkayuth told reporters that he was considering filing a lawsuit against the MICT, according to The Nation.

Thaksin said on Sunday that he knows nothing about the shuttering of the two Web sites, according to the Bangkok-based daily The Nation.

Thai media organizations and members of the Democrat opposition party have condemned the government’s actions. Hundreds gathered last week at a hotel in the capital Bangkok in support of the two Web sites that were shut down.