Countering threats of violence and crimes against journalists to protect freedom of expression in Thailand and the Mekong countries

Countering threats of violence and crimes against journalists to protect freedom of expression in Thailand and the Mekong countries

On the occasion of International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, 2 November 2021


Ending impunity for crimes against journalists is one of the most pressing issues for guaranteeing freedom of expression and access to information for all peoples. Between 2006 and 2020, over 1,200 journalists were killed around the world, with close to 9 out of 10 cases of these killings remaining judicially unresolved, according to the UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists. This cycle of violence against journalists is often an indicator of the weakening of the rule of law and a compromised judicial system.

While killings clearly constitute the most extreme dimension of media censorship, journalists are also commonly subjected to numerous other alarming threats, among them kidnapping, torture, and various kinds of physical attack and related harassment, no less other tactics of intimidation being increasingly perpetuated in the digital sphere. Threats of violence and attack against journalists create a climate of fear for media professionals, impeding the free circulation of information, opinions and ideas. In many cases, when violence or intimidation is not properly investigated, they escalate to even more severe acts of aggression, if not outright murder.

In Thailand, at atmosphere of prolonged political tension has been exacerbated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in nationwide mass social unrest. Together with the widening of income and wealth disparities, the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 have given rise to near-daily protests in both Bangkok and provincial areas.

Thai journalists thus find themselves trying to function in an increasingly hostile work environment, and increasingly falling victim to physical, verbal and online attack. Over recent years, more journalists have been reported physically injured while performing their work. At the same time, social media influencers and bloggers living in exile have been victims of forced disappearance. These conditions seriously hamper the ability of all journalists to report news and information to the public.

Given such concerning circumstances, it is essential to strengthen the investigations and prosecutions of threats of violence against journalists in order to prevent future crimes against them. In addition, justice systems that vigorously investigate all threats of violence against journalists send a powerful message that society will not tolerate attacks against journalists and against the right to freedom of expression for all.

To commemorate the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, UNESCO will support the launch of a special report produced by the independent online newspaper Prachatai on the challenges of Thai journalists in recent years, and an online public discussion on regional trends related to the safety of journalists and the role of judiciary operators in Thailand in bettering the investigation and prosecution of crimes and threats of violence against journalists.

                                    

Programme

Date: 2 November 2021
Time: 9.00 – 11.30 am (Bangkok time, GTM +7)
Format: Online public discussion
Language: English, Khmer, Myanmar, Thai,
Registration link: 
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfgtXoIDTZftC1n1AqiGU0ouuBafEScZBioknpMy9WAjHPgnw/viewform

Time

Items

Speaker

9.00- 9.15

Opening

Ms Katia Chirizzi, Deputy Regional Representative, OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia

Mr Shigeru Aoyagi, Director of UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, UNESCO Bangkok

9.15-10.15

Presentation of a documentary and special report on Thai journalists covering protests and conflicts

Panel discussion: Threats of violence and crimes against journalists in the Mekong countries

Prachatai

 

Moderator: Mr Panu Wongchaum, President of Foreign Correspondents Club Thailand 

Panelists:
Ms Jutharat Kultankitja, reporter of Prachatai, Thailand 

Mr Soe Myint, editor and founder of Mizzima News, Myanmar 

Ms Bopha Phorn, freelance investigative journalist, Cambodia

10.15 -11.15

 

Investigating and prosecuting crimes and threats of violence against journalists in the Mekong countries

Guidelines for prosecutors on cases of crimes against journalists, published by UNESCO and the International Association of Prosecutors

Prosecution of crimes against journalists in Thailand

Preventing the culture of impunity and crimes against journalists in Thailand and Mekong countries

Moderator: Ms Misako Ito, Advisor for Communication and Information, UNESCO Bangkok

Mr Sabin Ouellet, author of the Guidelines and former chief prosecutor, Canada

 

Mr Yongyoot Srisattayachon, Executive Director of International Affairs Department, Office of the Attorney General, Thailand

Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia

11.15-11.30
 

Closing remarks

Mr Tewarit Maneechai, Executive Director, Prachatai

Ms Misako Ito, Advisor for Communication and Information, UNESCO Bangkok

Event