Saturday 23 September 2017

Thailand teaches journalists to ask inoffensive questions

Thai army chief and Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha Credit: Narong Sangnak
Thai army chief and Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha Credit: Narong Sangnak

Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Pracha Hariraksapitak

Thai officials are to 'teach' 200 local and foreign journalists how to ask questions that will not offend Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized control of the country last year in an unexpected military coup.

Mr Prayuth, who famously said he would execute journalists who "didn't report the truth", said he was not afraid of the press on Thursday, days before his government is to hold a meeting to teach reporters "how to properly address questions" to the country's leader.

Winthai Suvaree, a spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order, said the meeting next week for journalists was intended to "create understanding" and teach them how to ask questions that will not offend.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand in a message to members of the foreign press this week said it had been alerted to reports of journalists encountering difficulties when trying to start, renew or change their media accreditation.

Mr Winthai said there was no policy to stop foreign journalists from renewing their visas or applying to work in Thailand.

Prime Minister Prayuth toppled the government of Yingluck Shinawatra in a May 2014 coup, putting an end to months of street demonstrations

Gaffe-prone, he has had a love-hate relationship with the media since he seized power, claiming news outlets had no power over him.

"I'm not afraid of the press but I ask for fairness because I have never told the press not to speak or write anything," he said previously when asked about censorship in the Thai media.

"I am friendly with the media," Mr Prayuth told reporters.

"I do not have control over the media, nor do they have power over me."

Affectionately called 'Uncle Prayuth' by his admirers, the former military leader has overseen a period of relative stability but has been criticised by rights groups for using heavy-handed handed tactics against detractors.

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