CPJ seeks investigation into Thai violence against media

New York, May 20, 2010—As details of violence emerge, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on the Thai government today to investigate the deaths of two journalists who were killed while covering the violence that has wracked Bangkok and other parts of Thailand for three months. It is the government’s duty to instruct military forces to be aware of the presence of journalists in a battle area and ensure their safety, CPJ said.

In addition to the two journalists killed, at least six more were injured while covering the unrest, according to news reports. CPJ has compiled several of our colleagues’ firsthand accounts of the violence on the CPJ Blog.

“Covering civil unrest in Thailand is always dangerous, but for months, neither side in the political turmoil has been willing to address ways of allowing journalists to do their jobs without fear of being killed or injured,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The government must fully investigate the killing of Fabio Polenghi, including all evidence and ballistics to determine who was responsible for his death and bring them to justice.”

On Wednesday, freelance Italian photojournalist Fabio Polenghi was killed and three international journalists were among dozens of people injured. Polenghi, 45, had been on assignment in Thailand for three months for a European magazine. The men were among 12 other people injured in the battles after Thai troops smashed into the rally zone in Bangkok’s center, tearing down the barricades of tires and razor wire

On April 10, Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto, a Japanese national, died after being shot in the chest while filming armed exchanges between government soldiers and antigovernment protestors.

Also wounded by gunfire on Wednesday was Dutch freelancer Michael Maas, who was working for Dutch national TV, and Andrew Buncombe, a British reporter with the U.K. daily The Independent. Chandler Vandergrift, a freelance Canadian writer and photographer, was seriously hurt in a grenade attack. He remains in intensive care at the Bangkok Christian Hospital following two hours of brain surgery, according to the Toronto Star.

Demonstrators also targeted Thai media centers as they were routed Wednesday. State-run TV Channel 3 was attacked, and many staff members had to be evacuated from the building, according to local and international news reports. Staff at sister newspapers the English-language Bangkok Post and the Thai-language Post Today were also evacuated when protesters gathered nearby.