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December 2, 2015 - Updated on March 8, 2016

RSF deplores Thailand’s censorship of New York Times


For the second time in a week, a New York Times article was replaced by a blank space in the newspaper’s Thai version by its local printer on 4 December. The latest article to be censored was an op-ed piece by Bangkok-based journalist Tom Felix Joehnk. Headlined “The Thai Monarchy and Its Money,” it called for reform of the Crown Property Bureau, an agency that manages the royal family’s business assets. They constitute Thailand’s biggest corporate group and, at the same time, one of its most secretive ones. ---------------- Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that yesterday’s issue of the International New York Times appeared with blank spaces on its front page and page 6 in Thailand because its local printer, Eastern Printing PCL, refused to print a story about Thailand’s economic woes. In the blank areas where the article by reporter Thomas Fuller should have appeared, readers found this message: “The article in this space was removed by our printer in Thailand. The International New York Times and its editorial staff had no role in its removal.” Headlined “Thai spirits sagging with the economy,” the article can nonetheless be read on the New York Times website. It describes the Thai military junta’s difficulties in reviving the economy despite the promises to make this a priority that the military gave at the time of their coup d’état in May 2014. “We condemn this article’s removal from Thai edition of the International New York Times, a new example of the taboos imposed by the junta on local and international media and the widespread self-censorship by media companies,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. “The policy of suppressing information must stop at once. It is responsible for some of the economic problems encountered by Thailand and reported in the media. By preventing the publication of economic analyses, the government is just compounding the problems. Has the prime minister never heard of the Streisand effect ?” The same Thai printing company refused to print the entire issue of the International New York Times Asian edition on 22 September because of a 1,300-word article about King Bhumibol’s ailing health and the questions hanging over the royal succession – a highly sensitive subject in Thailand. It is one of many taboos in Thailand, which is ranked 134th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index and where the range of subjects that are off limits expanded after the 2014 coup and can now include anything remotely to do with politics. On 12 November, Reporters Without Borders released a report about the situation of the media in Thailand 18 months after the coup. Entitled “Media hounded by junta since 2014 coup,” it urges the Thai authorities to stop using the threat of lèse-majesté charges and to repeal all draconian media legislation, including article 112 of the criminal code, the criminal defamation law and the Computer Crimes Act.