Thai military authorities force broadcast reporter off the air

New York, November 17, 2014–Military authorities in Thailand have forced the suspension of a broadcast reporter for violating orders under martial law that bar critical reporting on the country’s ruling junta, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for an end to intimidation and harassment of journalists and a lifting of all martial law orders that censor the press.

According to local news reports, Thai Public Broadcasting Service reporter Nattaya Wawweerakup was suspended on Friday from hosting her program, “Voices of the People that Change Thailand,” after soldiers raised objections with the station’s managers about her interviews with local people who criticized the ruling junta. The soldiers threatened to suspend the program if she was not removed as its host, the reports said.

Thai PBS said Nattaya would be temporarily replaced to avoid the program’s suspension, news reports said. It is unclear if or when she will resume hosting the show. The station also said it would comply with a military order to change the program’s format from grassroots interviews toward more general news broadcasting, according to reports.

“Thailand’s military government claims to be on a democratic reform track but its order to dismiss Thai PBS reporter Nattaya Wawweerakup and its sustained ban on critical reporting signal a commitment to military rule,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should roll back martial law, restore democracy, and stop harassing reporters, who are merely doing their jobs as custodians of the public interest.”

Thailand’s media have been heavily censored since a military coup led by then army commander, now prime minister, General Prayut seized power on May 22 in the name of restoring national stability. His government has promised to hold new elections after military-appointed bodies implement political reforms and draft a new constitution that many fear will curb rather than expand democratic freedoms.

Martial law measures, namely Orders No. 91 and No. 103, bar journalists from interviewing or publishing the perspectives of government critics, including politicians aligned with the previous ousted government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The military shuttered a dozen cable and satellite TV stations at the time of the coup, but have since allowed them all to resume broadcasting under strict censorship guidelines and formats.