THAILAND: Less Majesty for Foreign Journalists

Andrew MacGregor Marshall- author of the Zenjournalist blog, former Reuter’s staffer and an internationally respected journalist – has never been one to jeopardize his integrity to appease  the status quo. And so we have the case with his quarrel with the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT).

This club has been active for 57 years but, in the opinion of Marshall, has sunk to the lowest point in its history. Marshall’s criticism of the once prestigious FCCT comes in the wake of the severe sentencing of Thai editor Somyot Pruksakasemsuk for printing two articles that allegedly violated lèse-majesté, the overly broad law that seeks to immune royalty from any and all criticisms.

Marshall is furious with the overseers of the FCCT for failing to offer a stout defense of the editor. Instead, the FCCT lamely issued a statement noting that it was nothing more than a mere club and therefore does not comment on controversial issues. But Marshall rightly notes that on past occasions the FCCT has in fact spoken out publicly.

The question raised by the courageous Marshall is one that is essential to the growth of a truly free and independent Thai press. Marshall says that in private FCCT officials will refute Article 112 (lèse-majesté) but publicly will scoff at foreign journalists who argues for policy reform; their job, says FCCT, is simply to report the news. We strongly disagree. In fact it is journalists like Andrew MacGregor Marshall — whether home-gorwn or not — that are essential to the cause of freedom of press in Thailand.

As a foreign journalist Marshall has done more than “report the news”; he presents readers with the good, the bad, and the ugly of current events while offering real reform to better all media outlets. He should be supported by FCCT, not abused.

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