February 22, 2016
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has strongly criticised the new guidelines for Thai media (M) visas for foreign journalists released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, February 18. The IFJ called on the Thai military government to revise the guidelines and guarantee media freedom in the country.
The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press statement announcing new guidelines for issuing media visas for foreign journalists and media correspondents applying to work in Thailand for more than three months.
According to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, under the revisions some journalists who have received M visas in the past may not be issued the same visas in the future, and will be asked to apply for different visas. Under the revisions, which will be implemented on March 21, authorities will have new discretionary powers to deny visas to journalists whose work or behavior is deemed as "constituting any disruption to public order or to the security of the kingdom."
The new guidelines come as part of wider crackdown on media freedom in Thailand. On January 29, the Constitution Drafting Committee released the draft constitution for public comment. According to reports, the current draft sets minimal provisions for media freedom and free expressions. SEAPA highlighted a number of key concerns within the draft Constitution, noting less editorial independence and that the state and the existing National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) will direct and control the distribution of broadcast frequencies, among other concerns.
The Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand (FCCT) voiced its concern for the new guidelines, noting that Thailand has long been a media hub for the region, and foreign journalists based in Bangkok have contributed to a better global understanding of the Asia-Pacific region. The FCCT said: “We urge the Thai authorities to interpret the guidelines in a way that enables all bona fide journalists to be properly accredited and report freely and fairly.”
The IFJ said: “The new guidelines for media visas in Thailand are part of a larger attempt by the military government to control and suppress media freedom. Journalists and media workers in Thailand are faced by increasingly difficult circumstances, often not aware of their legal rights, and facing risks of defamation through the misuse of laws. Immediate action needs to be taken by the military government to support and promote media freedom.” - IFJ media release
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