Thai protest leaders take action after attacks on reporters: Protest leaders from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) met with media representatives Monday after a string of attacks and incidents of harassment against reporters at rally sites in recent days.
“The [protest] leaders understood and expressed regrets,” said Sadej Bunnag, the Vice President for Rights and Liberty at the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), who was present during the meeting.
Mr. Sadej said the PDRC leaders would remind its guards to be non-violent, and a direct line of contact will be established between reporters and a protest leader.
The two sides also agreed to keep all television news broadcasting vehicles in one area, and maintain a physical distance from protesters to ensure safety and enable the journalists to do their work without pressure, The Nation reported.
On Sunday, Thai Channel 9 TV reporter Penphan Lamluang had water splashed in her face and protesters attempted to assault her near Democracy Monument before she was saved.
Channel 9 said someone shouted, “They are lackeys of Thaksin. How can they say there are [just] 5,000 protesters?”
Channel 9 also denied the reporter ever gave such a figure and that their vehicle was attacked as it left the scene.
Also on Sunday, Channel 3 reporter Warunee Susatsakulchai was attacked in the same way.
Both local and foreign reporters have been targeted by protesters and their leaders, according to Shawn Crispin, senior Southeast Asian Representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
“A movement that is allegedly fighting for democracy should understand that [journalists] are observers,” noted Crispin.
He said that both the pro- and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movements have tended to target reporters whom they consider to be on the other side.
Crispin also expressed concerns about the government’s threat to prosecute executives of Blue Sky channel.
Many journalists have pointed out that protest leaders who speak of attacking the media often incite the crowds.
The Thai Journalists Association used to give out armbands to distinguish reporters from protesters, but today such armbands made reporters targets for some protesters.
“An armband is like a vacuum cleaner that sucks protesters to us. People walk up to reporters after they see an armband and ask ‘Where do you work?’ And some ask us: ‘Do you come from Channel 9?'” said Wimonwan Thampakdee of Thairath TV.
She also said most news stations now remove channel stickers from their cars for fear of the protesters destroying the vehicles.
On Tuesday, a Thai PBS reporter was threatened at the Thai-Japan Youth Centre.
INN reporter Piyathida Pechdee said some protesters had intimidated her by telling her she should report the news, not change it.
She also said when reporters were presenting the news at the protest site, demonstrators would shout in the background, causing the reporter’s words to become unclear.
Sometimes when the protest leaders criticized the media on stage, their intention was not to encourage physical attacks, but the protesters often don’t understand the real message.