Thailand | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2003

2003 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Status change explanation: Thailand's rating declined from Free to Partly Free to reflect increased official pressure on both local and foreign media outlets throughout the year.


Media outlets were subject to increased pressure from Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's administration in 2002. The constitution allows the government to restrict press freedom in order to preserve national security, maintain public order, or prevent insults to the royal family or Buddhism. Despite some progress in the redrafting of broadcasting laws, the 1941 Printing Act, which empowers authorities to shut down media outlets, remains in force. By law, radio stations must renew their licenses annually. The government and armed forces own or oversee most radio and broadcast television stations. Newspapers scrutinize official policies and report allegations of corruption and human rights abuses, but journalists exercise an increasing level of self-censorship. Editions of the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) and The Economist were banned early in the year, and in February the government threatened to deport two FEER reporters. According to the Thai Journalists Association, two editors were forced to resign and an independent media group's radio programs were taken off the air on the grounds that they were too critical of the government. Meanwhile, media organizations accused the government of intimidation after learning that an official anticorruption agency had been instructed to investigate the bank accounts of leading journalists and critical publications. Reporters, particularly in the provinces, were subjected to some harassment during the year.