HRW to Thai opposition: Protest but don’t attack journalists

MANILA, Philippines – A New York-based rights group on Wednesday, November 27, slammed the attacks against journalists covering an ongoing political protest in Thailand, two days after Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra enforced the Internal Security Act.

In a press statement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said there has been a series of assaults on media practitioners perceived by protesters to be pro-government during the rallies led by the opposition Democrat Party.

Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams said Thai authorities need to take stronger action against the reported attacks.

“Opposition groups have a right to protest peacefully, but that doesn’t mean assaulting journalists or anyone else,” Adams said. “At the same time, the Thai authorities need to allow antigovernment demonstrations that are secure and don’t degenerate into violent confrontations.”

HRW has monitored at least 3 cases of assault against media workers over the past two days:

  • On November 25, German freelance journalist Nick Nostitz was assaulted and punched in the face after former Democrat Party member of parliament Chumpoi Junsaid announced to thousands of protesters that he was affiliated with the pro-government United Front for Democracy against Dictators or the “Red Shirts.” The BlueSky television channel, which HRW described as “pro-Democrat Party,” posted a photo of Nostitz on its Facebook account after the incident.
  • Democrats also protested in front of TV channels 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 to call for an end to “biased reporting” on November 25. HRW said protesters singled out and surrounded the Channel 3 news show host Sorayuth Suttassanachinda. He was asked to apologize for his allegedly pro-government reports and to blow a whistle – the symbol of the opposition campaign – before he was allowed to return inside his station.
  • On November 24, reporters and a broadcast van from TV Channel 3 were pressured to leave the main protest site on Ratchadamnoen Road after protesters accused them of presenting biased news.

Meanwhile, other cases of violence have also transpired. Human Rights Watch said unidentified assailants fired slingshots at buses transporting protesters from southern Thailand to Bangkok on November 23.

On November 25, the Thai government enforced the Internal Security Act (ISA) in key areas, including Bangkok and Nonthaburi, where most government agencies are located. The ISA grants the government the power to set curfews and seal roads and buildings.

Adams urged both sides to settle the conflict peacefully.

“Left unchecked, the dramatic escalation of confrontations on Bangkok’s streets poses serious risks of violence, so both the authorities and protest leaders should change course,” Adams said. “Protest leaders should ensure that their supporters act peacefully, and the security forces need to maintain order within the bounds of the law.”