Tag Archives: Thailand

Thai authorities arrest Hong Kong journalist for having body armor

The BBC reports Hong Kong photojournalist Anthony Kwan Hok-chun was arrested for carrying body armor and a helmet as he was ready to board a flight back to Hong Kong.

Seems Kwan brought the equipment with him to cover the recent bombing of the Erawan Shrine a couple of weeks ago. And it seems having military type equipment is against the law.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand issued a statement calling for Kwan’s release. The FCCT made the following points to the Thai government:

  • Hong Kongers were among the dead in the bombing
  • Protective gear is standard issue for reporters covering violent events.
  • The vest and helmet are not weapons
  • Journalists openly worn body armor during recent political turmoil without any action being taken government
  • Te deaths of two foreign journalists in Bangkok from gunfire during the political unrest in 2010 underscores the need for this kind of protection.

As the FCCT pointed out, it is not unusual for journalists to wear protective gear when reporting from dangerous areas. The Committee to Protect Journalists gives a rundown of the types of equipment to wear in different troubled areas:

  • Choose a vest rated to stop high-velocity bullets fired by military rifles.
  • Helmets are also recommended for journalists covering war zones.
  • Wear body armor whenever you are embedded with military forces

The CPJ also offers  tips about using protective gear in civil disturbance situations:

  • Protective gear  that is lightweight and relatively thin can provide protection against knife attacks, rubber bullets, and other hazards.
  • Baseball-style caps with metal plates are also available.
  • Armor may not be recommended for covering criminal matters because it may cause a journalist to be mistaken for a law enforcement agent.
  • Gas masks may also be worn, although in doing so journalists incur the risk that they could be mistaken for either riot police or demonstrators.

Kwan’s employer, Initium Media, hired a lawyer to contest the charges.

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Thai situation dangerous to journalists and media freedom

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

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Filed under Asia, Harassment, International News Coverage