Concerned about suppression of press freedom following declaration of martial law in Thailand

Thursday, May 29, 2014

His Excellency Mr. Pisan Manawapat, Ambassador of Thailand to Canada
Royal Thai Embassy Ottawa
180 Island Park Dr,
Ottawa, ON K1Y 0A2

May 29, 2014

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is deeply concerned by what Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) has called the “outright suppression of press freedom” following the military seizure of power in Thailand. The military formally seized power on May 22, 2014, two days after the declaration of Martial Law. The coup occurred after months of intense tension between the government and the opposition resulting in widespread protests. The recent media censorship imposed by the military junta has placed widespread restrictions on broadcast, electronic, and print media, and has threatened the rights of journalists and activists in the state. CJFE is extremely troubled by the summoning of over 35 people including activists, journalists, academics and politicians to report to the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC). NPOMC is the party of the current military government. CJFE is also alarmed by the mass arrests that followed the summons; SEAPA reported that “At least one hundred persons who came for the summons were subsequently detained and taken to unknown locations. The exact number of detainees is impossible to determine – with some putting estimates at more than 200”.

According to Human Rights Watch, authorities have told journalists that failure to comply with orders to only publicize military content will lead to prosecution. In a statement on the current climate for press freedom in Thailand, SEAPA noted that “the clampdown on media has used force to silence channels of information and public opinion out of fear”.

CJFE strongly urges the NPOMC to release all arbitrarily detained media workers and activists. Moreover, meaningful action must be taken to protect the free expression rights of all Thai citizens. Journalists must be free to report on this critical political moment in Thailand, without the threat of detention or violent attack.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: Mr. Philip Calvert, Ambassador of Canada to Thailand
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

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