Community radio stations come under fire

New York, May 21, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the harassment of three community radio stations in Thailand, including Confidante Radio FM 87.75, Taxi Driver Community Radio FM 92.75, and the Internet-based Saturday Voice Against Dictatorship.

Officials from the prime minister’s public relations department (PRD) entered Confidante’s offices in Nonthaburi province on Thursday and confiscated taped recordings of an interview with the exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which the station had aired live the previous day, according to local press reports. The interview was also aired on the Bangkok-based Taxi Driver Community Radio and the Saturday Voice Against Dictatorship.

During the interview, Thaksin called on the military junta that ousted him from power last September to quickly hold new democratic elections, which are now scheduled for mid-December. PRD officials have reportedly opened an investigation against all three stations on possible charges of “undermining national security” and “illegally operating,” according to local press reports. The charges carry possible prison terms. As of Monday, all three stations were still broadcasting.

“Harassment and intimidation of community radio stations is completely out of step with the Thai government’s stated commitment to upholding press freedom and restoring the country to democracy,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “We call on Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and the ruling Council for National Security to immediately cease and desist from intimidating and harassing journalists.”

Thailand’s military-led government has imposed harsh restrictions on the country’s roughly 3,000 community radio stations. After seizing power last year, the junta has required community radio stations to broadcast military-prepared news three times daily. This month, CPJ named Thailand one of the world’s worst backsliders on press freedom.
The ruling Council for National Security had also barred stations from mentioning the ousted premier by name, although that particular restriction had eased somewhat until last week, judging by an informal CPJ survey of Bangkok-based radio stations.