Prayut slams journalists as 'unethical'

Prayut slams journalists as 'unethical'

PM says reports put nation in a bad light

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha led ministers to a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, and then let it all hang out:
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha led ministers to a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, and then let it all hang out: "Some journalists lack ethics" and the press associations should (but won't) curb them. (Reuters photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has blamed journalists' professional associations for their failure to curb some media crews who allegedly lack "ethics" and never portray the government in a positive light.

His comment came a day after the Thai Journalists Association on Monday joined international media and rights organisations in calling on the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to release The Nation newspaper's senior journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk from military detention.

Pravit and two Pheu Thai key members held for similar comments, Karun Hosakul and Pichai Naripthaphan, were released yesterday, though the government did not say if it was in response to recent criticism.

The junta said it considered what Pravit said was not in line with the NCPO's direction and could stir conflict and cause damages to other individuals or organisations.  

Gen Prayut said many media members understood the country's current situation which is prone to unrest and are careful about their comments, but some journalists find only faults in the military-sponsored government. "So I'd say they lack ethics,'' he said.

"I've never [seriously] restricted media freedom and never interfered with their affairs, but yes I speak loudly sometimes," Gen Prayut said, insisting he always respects journalists' jobs.

But if those journalists continued to make only negative comments about the government, how would other countries view Thailand, he asked.

Gen Prayut said the nation needs is a peaceful situation if investment and tourism are to thrive, adding he wondered whether some journalists ever thought about those issues.

Meanwhile, the US charge d' affaires, W Patrick Murphy, expressed concern over limits which the junta is imposing on civil liberties as it detains politicians and journalists.

"We remain concerned by continued limits on civil liberties in Thailand, including restrictions on freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly," Mr Murphy said in a Twitter message.

The US-based Human Rights Watch shared his concern over rights violations, adding the world would get the chance to grill Gen Prayut this month when he visits the United Nations in New York.

"One day the Thai junta arrests an opposition politician, the next day it's a journalist," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"The junta is expanding its authoritarian control by arbitrarily arresting any and all critics of its repressive rule."

Gen Prayut is scheduled to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York during the fourth week of this month.

"Gen Prayut's appearance at the UN General Assembly is a key moment for world leaders and the international media to press him on Thailand's pledges to respect rights and restore democracy," Mr Adams said.

Those who are summoned by the NCPO are usually detained, for what the military calls "attitude adjustments" for between one and seven days as a maximum, NCPO spokesman Winthai Suvaree said.

Pravit, who was ordered to report to the military on Sunday afternoon, was held for two nights.

However, he, together with Mr Karun, a former Pheu Thai MP for Don Muang, and Mr Pichai, a former energy minister, had to "sign an agreement to stop their movements or opinions", Col Winthai said.

Pravit, well known for his anti-coup views, was detained at the 1st Development Division in Ratchaburi for seven days last year but was sent back to military detention after he continued to comment on the coup, mainly in social media.

The curbs could have a knock-on effect with a former Pheu Thai politician who has criticised the latest attitude adjustment sessions picked as the next likely critic to be detained.

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