Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's government continued to exert pressure on the Thai media in 2003. Strong constitutional protections for freedom of expression are balanced by laws that enable the government to restrict this right in order to preserve national security, maintain public order, or prevent insults to the royal family or Buddhism. Though rarely used, the 1941 Printing Act gives authorities the power to shut down media outlets. In addition, libel charges were filed against several journalists and media advocates during the year. While the print media are largely privately run, the government and armed forces own or oversee most radio and broadcast television stations. Conflicts of interest remain a concern, as corporations controlled by Thaksin's family or with ties to the ruling party own or have shares in a growing number of private media outlets and exert influence over editorial policy. Despite an increasing level of self-censorship, some journalists continue to scrutinize official policies and report allegations of corruption and human rights abuses. Nevertheless, they faced a range of renewed economic and political pressures. Radio stations are required to transmit government-produced newscasts twice a day and must renew their licenses annually; media groups noted that renewals were sometimes delayed or withheld in order to punish critical stations. According to the Thai Journalists' Association, business associates of the government also withheld advertisements from news outlets in a further attempt to stifle critical coverage. Reporters were subjected to some harassment while covering the news, and a local journalist from the island of Phuket was murdered in February.