Wed, May 16, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Editor of Thai paper forced to leave over coverage of junta

The Guardian

The editor of the Bangkok Post newspaper has said he has been forced to step down after refusing to curtail critical coverage of the Thai military government.

Umesh Prandy, who has held the position since July 2016, said the board of directors had asked him to “tone down” the newspaper’s reporting and editorials on the actions of the government, particularly over their suppression of freedom of speech and the delays over long-promised elections.

“When asked to tone down I did not budge and was blunt in letting those who make decisions know that I would rather lose my position than bow my head,” Prandy said in a written statement on Monday night. “The axe finally came down on me just 60 days before my two-year contract ended.”

The Bangkok Post board is made up of some of the most powerful figures in Thai business and education, many with close ties to the government; one member, Wuttisak Lapcharoensap, was floated as minister of education last year.

Press freedom in Thailand has been notoriously restricted since the military junta took over in a bloodless coup in 2014, with numerous journalists arrested under laws that ban views the government considers to be “inconsistent with the truth” or under the strict lese majeste laws, which prevent any criticism of the king.

In the 2016 Freedom House report, media in Thailand was certified as “not free.”

However, in the past 18 months Prandy was seen to have pushed the boundaries of the paper’s coverage, and in his departure statement, Prandy spoke of his pride at the “hard-hitting news” that he and his team had produced.

An editorial from Monday, in which the paper criticized the banning of all broadcasts by pro-democracy Peace TV, was said to have been a particular source of contention.

The paper slammed the ban as a “blatant and poorly thought out act of censorship.”

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