AHRC welcomes new independent online news page

June 6, 2007

THAILAND: AHRC welcomes new independent online news page

(Hong Kong, June 6, 2007) The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on Wednesday welcomed the launch of a new English-language independent online news page from Thailand.

The Prachatai online news group launched its English version on May 24 to complement its established Thai-language website.

Launching the page, columnist Pitch Pongsawat said that democracy could only be promoted in Thailand by people taking matters into their own hands, not asking for people in power to share it.

“The launch of this new page is a very good development for English-language users interested to know what is really going on in Thailand,” Basil Fernando, executive director of the Hong Kong-based AHRC said.

“Prachatai has built a reputation as a reliable and well-regarded independent news source for Thai-language users,” Fernando said.

“Its move into English is particularly welcome at this time when the conventional media in Thailand has been severely psychologically disabled by the military dictatorship,” he said.

“Readers can expect to find many news items and commentary on the site that they cannot find elsewhere,” Fernando added.

Prachatai was founded in 2004 by a group of senior journalists, senators, academics and other persons concerned about growing attempts to curtail media freedoms under the government of former the prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

In contrast to mainstream newspapers and magazines, it has maintained its editorial independence since the September 2006 military coup up to the present.

The first English articles on the new Prachatai webpage include reports on television and internet censorship by the military regime and analyses of last Wednesday’s tribunal decision to dissolve the former ruling political party, Thai Rak Thai.

The group has sought assistance from volunteers to translate and edit material into English.

The page can be accessed at: http://www.prachatai.com/english

Meanwhile, Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) on Friday warned that nearly 18,000 websites are now being blocked in Thailand, with some 90 politically-related sites blocked in April alone.

“Anti-coup websites, pro-Thaksin websites, newly-uncovered anonymous proxies, plus all the usual suspects from past blocklists were censored,” the Bangkok-based freedom of information advocacy group said in a press statement.

FACT noted that the Ministry of Communications Technology, which is responsible for blocking the majority of the sites, continues to refuse to release its criteria for ordering a site blocked.

The report follows the banning of You Tube in Thailand due to its refusal to withdraw videos mocking the country’s king, a move which attracted international attention.

The full text of the FACT statement is available online: https://facthai.wordpress.com/2007/06/01/fact-monitors-mict-secret-may-blocklist-posted.

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