Friday, May 21, 2010

Thailand: Attacks on Media Must Stop

20 May 2010

Thailand: Attacks on Media Must Stop

Following the surrender of “Red Shirt” leaders and the imposing of curfew in Bangkok, all sides must stop attacking the media in order to allow the media to report freely on the development of the crisis. The media must also uphold the professional standards of objectivity to gain public trust and credibility.

Protests across Thailand have continued today following weeks of growing conflict. Yesterday the Thai army surrounded and used live arms to disperse protesters calling for the dissolving of parliament and announcing early elections, killing many. Members of the Red Shirts, largely consisting of rural poor, have in recent weeks targeted national media houses claiming that they are biased towards the urban elite. The government, on the other hand, has blocked around 4,500 websites and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Twitter feed amongst other censorship measures.

On Wednesday, the Red Shirts stormed national TV station Channel 3 and set cars on fire. Journalists at The Bangkok Post and The Nation also evacuated their building in fear of their safety. Following the crackdown, some protestors also turned on the media, threatening photographers taking pictures of retreating Red Shirts in particular.

The crisis has taken a heavy toll on journalists. International and national journalists have been killed and injured in the course of the crisis. In Wednesday’s army crackdown, Fabio Polenghi, an Italian photojournalist was killed by gunshot. He is the second journalist to have lost his life after Japanese cameraman for Reuters, Hiroyuki Muramoto, who was fatally shot on 10 April. At least five other international journalists from the Netherlands, USA, Canada and the UK, and a Thai photographer working for Australian Broadcasting Corporation have been injured thus far. Besides journalists working for foreign media, two local newspaper photographers - one working for Matichon and the other for The Nation – also suffered injuries in recent clashes.

“Such attacks, as well as threats to journalists and media censorship, seriously undermine a free media environment much needed at this critical moment when the public needs updated information from all sources to understand the situation,” says Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

ARTICLE 19 calls on both sides to end the attacks on journalists and media censorship, and to ensure the right to information and right to expression are not compromised.

ARTICLE 19 also urges journalists to adhere to the professional standards of reporting, upholding objectivity and refraining from inciting violence.


• For more information please contact: Amy Sim, Asia Programme Officer,, ARTICLE 19, +44 20 7324 2500

Pakistan: Freedom of Expression on Internet Must be Respected

For immediate release – 21 May 2010

Pakistan: Freedom of Expression on Internet Must be Respected

Decisions by a Pakistani High Court to ban numerous international websites and services violate international human rights law.

The Lahore High Court on 19 May ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block the social network website Facebook and hundreds of other pages in response to a Facebook user calling for an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”. The court later ordered the blocking of YouTube for the same reason. The ban has resulted in numerous other websites also being affected, including Flickr, Wikipedia, Google, Twitter, some parts of the BBC, and accessing the internet through the Blackberry mobile service. The Express Tribune has reported that the total number of blocked websites has reached 1,000.

Participants of a media forum held yesterday in Karachi to discuss the ban were attacked by protesters accusing the organisers of blasphemy.

Previously, Pakistan has banned access to YouTube, Blogspot and Flickr, along with sites relating to corruption by political officials, human rights abuses by the army, nationalist political parties and religious minorities. An attempt to block YouTube in 2008 resulted in most of Pakistan being cut off from the internet after Pakistan Telecom rerouted all YouTube visitors worldwide to a false site, leading to a massive overload of traffic and YouTube being blocked worldwide for a short time. A cybercrime law adopted in 2008 authorises the death penalty for some offenses.

These expansive blocks of internet content violate Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that all individuals have a fundamental human right to “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers … through any other media of his choice.” Pakistan signed the ICCPR in 2008.

Any curbs on the right to free expression must be strictly limited. The curb must be provided by a law which is clear and understandable, the interference must pursue a legitimate aim as set out under Article 19(3) of the ICCPR, and the restrictions must be necessary and proportionate. The blocking of millions of pages is clearly disproportionate.

“Leaders of countries around the world must understand that speech and information in new media such as the internet are equally protected under the fundamental right to freedom of expression,” says Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director . “It is not lawful to ban millions of pages to prevent access to a few.”

ARTICLE 19 calls on the government to remove all blocks that are not justifiable under international human rights law and to reform legislation that allows for blocks to be imposed without due consideration of the freedom of expression.


• For more information please contact: David Banisar, Senior Legal Counsel, ARTICLE 19, +44 20 7324 2500