Anyone who has an interest in events in Asia has been following the running battle in Thailand between the “red shirts” and the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
The “red shirts” are holed up in an upscale shopping center in Bangkok and are demanding the end of the current. government. The protesters are from the rural areas and feel they have been excluded from the decision-making process. Weaker agricultural prices and higher costs for agricultural inputs have not helped the situation.
And caught in the middle, trying to report on the situation are the Thai media.
Reporters Without Borders issued a statement (Media beset by both violence and state of emergency) over the weekend calling on the Thai government to stop harassing the domestic and international media covering the situation. It also called on the government to end censorship of web sites favorable to the “red shirts.”
At last count, the government had shut down access to 2,500 websites and the number is growing.
The danger to the safety of journalists has gotten so severe that many are now wearing protective helmets provided by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.
A Japanese cameraman was killed in a bomb blast over the weekend. Another was killed a couple of weeks ago by gun shot.
Reporters are regularly pelted with bottles and other debris tossed by the “red shirts.”
The protest leaders say the only way to guarantee the safety of the journalists is for them to wear green armbands that say “Dissolve Parliament.”
Journalists are refusing to do so.
Another factor has been injected into the already volatile situation: Tourists are entering the demonstration areas with their mobile phones and digital cameras hoping to be able to sell pictures to news outlets. These “citizen journalists” have little understanding of the dangers they face in what is now being described by seasoned journalists as a war zone.
Some additional reading on the situation
- FCCT Statement on the Press Situation in Thailand, 11 April 2010 – Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand
- Analysis – Thailand’s ‘Red Shirt’ uprising echos bloody class wars of past – The Globe and Mail
- Grenade attacks in Bangkok, Chiang Mai – Bangkok Post
- Protesters block roads in provinces amid Thai deadlock – BBC