Bangkok Post editor forced out over Thai Junta coverage

Press freedom in Thailand has been notoriously restricted since the military junta took over in a bloodless coup in 2014 Photograph: Rungroj Yongrit/EPA

The editor of Thailand’s Bangkok Post has been ‘forced out’ over coverage of Military Junta government. Umesh Prandy said he refused an order from board of directors to ‘tone down’ the newspaper’s reporting and editorials

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

Umesh Prandy, who has held the position of editor 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 military 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,” said Prandy in a written statement on Monday night.

“The axe finally came down on me just 60 days before my two year contract ended.”

Bangkok Post Editor forced out over Junta coverage
A pro-democracy protester wearing the face mask with a written message, takes part in a protest against junta delaying polls in Bangkok, Thailand January 27, 2018. Source: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

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 education minister last year.

Neither Prandy nor members of the Bangkok Post board responded to requests for comment.

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 which 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 14 May, in which the paper criticised 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” and added: “The charge used to once again shut down the only popular outlet of a major political force is ludicrous.”

Bangkok Post Editor Umesh Prandy
Umesh Prandy

Prandy had also recently wrote a damning op-ed on the military government, who rule as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), led by prime minister General Prayuth.

“The momentum has already started to build against this government and any smart politician or military strategist would know it is futile to go against the trend,” wrote Prandy.

“It is therefore advisable Gen Prayut and his band of democracy-robbers wake up before the situation deteriorates to a point of no return.”

It follows a recent incident where the editor of ChiangMai City Life magazine was almost jailed, and the publication accused of blasphemy, after they posted an image on the publication’s Facebook page, which showed three Thai kings wearing gas masks, in an attempt to highlight to city’s problems with pollution.

The governor of Chiang Mai accused editor Pim Kemasingki of violating the Computer Crime Act, and she was only cleared after taking the image down and publicly apologising.

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