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Thai government says press freedom has improved, despite watchdog's criticism

Thai government says press freedom has improved, despite watchdog's criticism

Thailand's military-installed government insisted Wednesday that it is more open to media criticism than its predecessor, despite a report by a watchdog group saying it is one of the 10 countries where press freedoms have deteriorated the most in recent years.
"The state of press freedom has improved markedly from the previous administration," government spokesman Yongyuth Maiyalarb said.
He said Thailand's media was threatened and controlled during ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's five years in power, but that "the situation is different now. We are open to criticism and people have been criticizing the government freely."
Thaksin was toppled in a bloodless military coup last September following months of mass street protests accusing him of massive corruption, abuse of power and media interference.
In a report issued Wednesday, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Thailand was one of 10 countries where press freedoms had deteriorated sharply in the past five years. Ethiopia topped the list, which also included Cuba and Russia. Thailand placed 10th.
The group said Thailand had previously been a leader in press freedom in Southeast Asia, but that conditions had worsened significantly in recent years.
It said the current government installed by the coup leaders has censored the broadcast media and ordered radio stations to broadcast news prepared by the military. TV stations have been told to minimize coverage of Thaksin, who is living abroad in exile, and many Internet sites critical of the government have been blocked.
The report also cited the government's takeover of the only private television station, iTV, as another sign of worsening press freedom. The station's broadcasting concession was revoked after it was unable to pay past concession fees and heavy fines.
The interim government has promised to hold elections in December after a new constitution is completed. It is unclear what press freedoms will be included in the document.
The CPJ said the 10 nations where press freedom deteriorated the most during the past five years are Ethiopia, Gambia, Russia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, Pakistan, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Morocco and Thailand.


Updated : 2021-04-22 20:21 GMT+08:00