Asia - Pacific
Index 2024
87/ 180
Score : 58.12
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Index 2023
106/ 180
Score : 55.24
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In 2023, Thailand has its first general elections since the historic wave of pro-democracy demonstrations in 2020. The election campaign was marked by intense debates about press freedom, with many questioning the relevance of Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, also called the lèse-majesté law, under which any criticism of the Thai monarchy can result in long prison sentences.

Media landscape

Like Thai society itself, the media landscape is very polarised. On the one hand, the mainstream media, such as the daily Thai Rath, toe the government line. On the other hand, lower profile media try to provide an alternative point of view and, because of this, they are harassed by the authorities. Such is the case with Voice TV, which was founded by an opposition leader and which is often threatened with suspension. It applies even more to online media such as Prachataiand The Reporters, which must wage a constant battle to keep providing reliable news and information.

Political context

Despite its success in the May 2023 general elections, the reformist Move Forward party did not form a government, as the Senate opposed its proposals to reform the lèse-majesté law. After intense political negotiations, the Pheu Thai party led a coalition that appointed Srettha Thavisin as the new prime minister, before joining forces with the country's army-backed, pro-monarchy establishment.

Legal framework

The possibility of a lèse-majesté charge, which is very broadly defined in article 112 of Thailand’s penal code and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, is a permanent threat hanging over every media outlet. Defamation and cybercrime laws are also systematically used to harass journalists, who – if prosecuted – are forced to incur exorbitant legal fees. The government has also imposed a “code of conduct” under which it can suspend the licences of media outlets that threaten “public decency.”

Economic context

Although apparently independent of the government, Thailand’s leading media outlets are owned by a handful of oligarchs with direct links to the royal family, the armed forces and  Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, the former prime minister. Conversely, the pro-opposition media were created with funding from businessmen close to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who returned to Thailand in 2023 after years in exile. The development of new methods of participatory financing is enabling the emergence of new websites that are less subject to the control of their funders.

Sociocultural context

The message is clear: either journalists censor themselves carefully or they expose themselves to charges of undermining “national security” or “peace and order,” which can lead directly to imprisonment. The climate of widespread fear is palpable during the frequent waves of pro-democracy street protests: The media that support the ruling elite don’t mention them at all, while journalists with alternative media weigh each term used in their reporting very carefully to avoid being jailed.


In Thailand, journalists need to be aware that any criticism of the government could cause a draconian response made possible by a judicial system that does the government’s bidding. Since the 2014 coup, dozens of journalists and bloggers have been forced to choose between imprisonment and self-imposed exile. Those convicted of lèse-majesté are systematically mistreated in prison. The police are meanwhile quick to use their batons: several journalists were badly injured by the police while trying to cover protests in November 2022.

Abuses in real time in Thailand

Killed since 1st January 2024
0 journalists
0 media workers
Detained as of today
0 journalists
0 media workers