May 16, 2018
Umesh Pandey, the editor of the Bangkok Post, announced on Tuesday, May 15, that he was removed from the position after the board asked him to ‘tone down’ his critical coverage of Thailand’s ruling military government.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has strongly criticized the decision by the board of directors and questioned the editorial independence of the staff.
Umesh Pandey has been the editor of Thailand’s largest English-language newspaper since July 2016, and his current two-year contract was due to expire in 60 days.
However, Pandey said that the board of directors asked him to ‘tone down’ the newspaper’s reporting and editorials about the military government, particularly suppression of freedom of speech and delays on elections. In a Facebook post, Pandey said that he was removed as editor for refusing to ‘bow’ to the board's request, but remained with the company in another role.
“The hard-hitting news that we have produced in the 22-months of my leadership is a testament to what we as a team that is down by nearly 60 people have managed to achieve. The ‘Poll Countdown’ the editorials, the news and everything that we have done has been to push Bangkok Post to be a world-class news media outlet. But when asked to ‘tone down’ I did not budge and was blunt in letting those making the decision that I rather lose my position than to bow my head. The axe finally came down on me just 60-days before my 2-year contract ended,” Pandey said on his Facebook.
Pandey’s removal comes just one week after Peace TV; a local Thai broadcaster was shut down for 30 days for provoking anti-junta sentiment. According to The Guardian, Pandey’s editorial on May 14 regarding the Peace TV ban was a particular source of contention.
The IFJ said: “The media in Thailand continues to work in a volatile environment, where journalists are faced with either being targeted for their reporting or having to self-censor to ensure their safety and livelihood. Press freedom in Thailand has been under attack for a number of years, and the removal of Umesh Pandey is the latest example of how critical and outspoken voices are being silenced. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in Thailand who continue to fight for press freedom.” – IFJ media release/ Photo courtesy: asia.nikkei.com
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