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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

FEBRUARY 14, 2005
Posted: February 15, 2005

Pongkiat Saetang, Had Yai Post,

Unidentified gunmen shot and killed Saetang, editor of the bimonthly newspaper Had Yai Post, near a market in Had Yai, in southern Thailand's Songkhla Province. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating to determine whether he was killed for his journalistic work.

Two assailants shot Pongkiat twice in the back while he was riding his motorcycle near Thungsao Market at around 8:30a.m., according to The Nation newspaper, which quoted police. The Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance reported that Pongkiat was pronounced dead on the scene, and the gunmen fled by motorcycle.

Pongkiat, 54, was known for his outspoken commentary on local politics. His critical reporting on Had Yai politicians had prompted threatening phone calls, his wife told reporters.

Local police inspector Lt. Col. Samart Boonmee said that police had not ruled out other possible motives, including personal conflicts, according to local news reports.

The Thai Journalists Association and the Southern Journalists Association of Thailand, to which Pongkiat belonged, condemned the murder and called on Thai national police to conduct a fair and open investigation into the case.

JUNE 18, 2005
Posted: June 30, 2005 and

The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT) issued an order to shut down and 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 Paireerak, program director, told CPJ 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, 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 according to the Bangkok-based daily The Nation.

Thaksin said he knows nothing about the shuttering of the two Web sites, according to 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.

JULY 2005

Posted: August 18, 2005

Matichon, Prachachart Tooragit

A Thai company with ties to a former government official filed criminal defamation complaints seeking massive damages from two daily newspapers owned by the Matichon media company.

Picnic Corp. is seeking 10 billion baht (US$240 million) in damages in a July 18 complaint against the daily Matichon newspaper. Just days before, Picnic filed a complaint seeking 5 billion baht (US$120.5 million) against Matichon's business daily, Prachachart Tooragit.

The 10 billion baht petition represents the largest such complaint ever filed against a Thai newspaper, analysts say. Picnic is also seeking a punitive court injunction against Matichon editors that would prevent them from working in journalism for a five-year period.

Picnic Corp, a cooking gas company owned and managed by the family of former Deputy Commerce Minister Suriya Lapwisuthisin, alleges that several Matichon reports concerning a recent financial scandal at the company were inaccurate and contributed to a decline in its share price. The publicly listed company faces a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into possible accounting fraud.

A Matichon editor in Bangkok told CPJ that the newspapers stand by the accuracy of their recent reporting about the company. Preliminary hearings are scheduled to begin in Bangkok on September 17, 2005.

The cases are in line with a troubling trend toward greater litigiousness against journalists in Thailand. In recent years, Thai corporations have filed a string of civil and criminal libel complaints against newspapers and commentators that have remarked critically on their business activities.

AUGUST 9, 2005
Posted: August 18, 2005

FM 92.25

Police raided and shut down FM 92.25, a Bangkok community radio station known for its critical reporting of the prime minister, and threatened to arrest its journalists if they continued to broadcast news.

Police and officials from the prime minister's office charged the station with "disseminating false information" and "inciting the public against the government." They also filed criminal charges against the station for violating transmission laws limiting the wattage and coverage area of radio stations, alleging that the FM 92.25 signal interfered with airport signals.

FM 92.25 is among more than 2,000 community radio stations operating across the country. Its closure follows a series of recent government actions against the station, including earlier police raids and the shuttering of the station's Web site.

AUGUST 15, 2005
Posted: August 18, 2005

Kowit Sanandang, Bangkok Post
Post Publishing

Two state-owned firms filed criminal defamation complaints against the editor of the English-language daily Bangkok Post, Kowit Sanandang, and the newspaper's parent company, Post Publishing Plc. The charges carry penalties of up to two years in prison and a fine of 200,000 baht (US $4,900), according to news reports.

Government-owned Airports of Thailand (AoT) and New Bangkok International Airport (NBIA) filed the lawsuit in response to an August 9 front-page story in the Bangkok Post. The companies allege that the story harmed the international image of the new Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Somsak Toraksa, the plaintiff's lawyer, told reporters.

The Bangkok Post, citing unnamed sources, reported that U.S. aviation experts hired by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had recommended reconstruction to repair large cracks in an airport runway. The newspaper retracted the report and ran a front-page apology the next day.

The Post's retraction stated that while there were small cracks on the shoulders of the runway, its source wrongly claimed that experts believed the runway needed reconstruction.

On Wednesday, Thaksin lashed out at the newspaper, calling the report "seriously damaging to the country."

The state-owned firms asked the court to order the defendants to pay to publicize the verdict in major international dailies, and to advertise the results of the case on local and international television channels for 15 consecutive days. A Bangkok court is scheduled to hear the case beginning September 19.

The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that NBIA is also preparing a civil lawsuit against the newspaper, seeking one billion baht (US $24,400) in damages.

Thai corporations have increasingly used legal action against media critical of their business activities.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2005
Posted October 11, 2005

Sondhi Limthongkul, Sarocha Porn-udomsak, Channel 9

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra filed two lawsuits over a September 9 commentary by political talk show hosts Sondhi Limthongkul and Sarocha Porn-udomsak on state-owned Channel 9. The commentary cited an article that implied that Thaksin was disloyal to King Bhumibol Adulyadej because the prime minister was "stubborn and arrogant," and was in competition with the King, the Bangkok Post reported. Thaksin wants 500 million baht (US$12.2 million) in damages in the civil suit, which is scheduled to be heard in March 2006. The criminal suit, which carries a possible two-year jail term, begins December 26.
In recent months, Sondhi has criticized the government for encroaching on the power of the monarchy, particularly in the English-language daily Thai Day, of which he is editorial board chairman. He is also a regular op-ed columnist.
Thaksin's government and its affiliated business interests have recently filed criminal and civil defamation suits against a number of Thai editors and newspapers. In August, two government agencies sued the English-language daily the Bangkok Post for criminal defamation related to a story the paper ran about construction flaws at the new Bangkok international airport. The agencies have threatened to file an accompanying one billion baht (US$ 24.4 million) civil suit. Yaowaret Shinawatra, Thaksin's younger sister, in August filed criminal and civil lawsuits against the Thai-language daily Thai Post for a story on another construction contract at the airport.

NOVEMBER 2, 2005
Posted November 4, 2005

Santi Lamaneenil, Pattaya Post

Santi Lamaneenil was found with multiple gunshot wounds to the head in the back of his car outside the beach resort of Pattaya, according to news reports.

Santi, owner of the local Pattaya Post, was also a freelance contributor to Channel 7 television and newspapers including Khaosod. Police told reporters that the murder could be related to his reporting, but they have not ruled out other motives. Santi had recently reported on illegal operations in late-night entertainment venues, police told local reporters.

Santi's body was found blindfolded and his hands tied with the cord of a mobile phone battery charger on Wednesday morning. Initial autopsy reports showed that he had been dead for about 10 hours, according to local news reports.

Jongrak Juthanond, the local police chief, told the Bangkok Post that investigators believe there were at least three assailants. The journalist's wife told police that Santi had stayed with relatives intermittently in recent months for fear of abduction or attack, according to local news reports.