Spotlight on Journalists Safety in Bangkok

Ongoing lockdowns and flashes of violence have consumed the Thai capital since November 2013. As the unrest enters its 6th month, media organisations such as the IFJ Asia Pacific are campaigning for the safety of journalists.

Photo: © John Le Fevre, The Establishment Post (http://www.establishmentpost.com)

Photo: © John Le Fevre, The Establishment Post (http://www.establishmentpost.com)

Local journalists and international human rights and media organisations have been fighting a piece of Thai legislation that bans the ownership of body armor for local and foreign journalists.

According to the Thai law, it is illegal for local and foreign journalists in the country to obtain body armor such as vests and helmets. While some journalists have been forced to buy inadequate home-made vests in the country, others have attempted to bring items into the country via mail or through airports and had the protective equipment held in customs indefinitely.

The Establishment Post deputy editor John Le Fevre has been waiting on protective equipment since January. When asked today by the Walkley Foundation if he had finally received the body armor, he replied: “Short answer, no. It’s still sitting in customs four months after I made my application and attracting daily storage fees.”

The International Federation of Journalists wrote to Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra urging the Government to implement an expedited process through which both foreign and local journalists would be permitted to obtain protective equipment.

During the unrest, journalists have been on the frontline and the injury toll highlights the need for protective equipment.

Journalist Sithinee Huangnak, of Post Today, was taken to hospital when an explosive device was thrown near a press tent at Victory Monument on January 19.

On February 17, four journalists were injured by a bomb blast in Narathiwat’s Yi Ngor district in Southern Thailand as they were reporting at the scene of another explosion from earlier that day. The Nation reported two of its reporters Santhiti Khorjitmet and Patidta Noosanthad had sustained injuries in the blast, as well as Siam Rath newspaper report assistant Muranee and Thai PBS reporter Salika Wongwai.

Clashes in Bangkok between protesters and police on February 18 at Phan Fah Bridge resulted in the hospitalisation of Jordi Calvet, a Spanish journalist working for

Agencia EFE. Calvert suffered shrapnel-related injuries.

The IFJ has issued a set of safety guidelines for media covering the protests.

Photo: © John Le Fevre, The Establishment Post (http://www.establishmentpost.com)
Photo: © John Le Fevre, The Establishment Post (http://www.establishmentpost.com)

See more images of media covering the Bangkok protests on the IFJ Asia Pacific’s Facebook page here.

This article is part of the 30 Days of Press Freedom campaign which began on April 4 and continues until World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The joint campaign by the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), The Walkley Foundation for Journalism and the International Federation of Journalists Asia-Pacific calls on media colleagues, friends and supporters to help raise awareness of press freedom issues in the Asia-Pacific region.

Follow the 30 Days of Press Freedom campaign on Facebook and on Twitter via the #30DaysofPressFreedom hashtag.