Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has issued its annual press freedom index for 179 countries around the world for the year 2011. Although Thailand remains on the list of "countries under surveillance," its ranking improved from 153 to 137.
Press freedom in Thailand suffered tremendously under Abhisit Vejjajiva as the RWB rankings dropped from 124th place in the world when he took office in 2008 to 153th place when he was booted out by the people in the national election of 2011. Only 25 countries ranked worse than Thailand in 2010.
Much of the free media paid dearly in Thailand under Abhisit. Control of news and information was part of the survival for Abhisit’s military installed government as it is for any other totalitarian and repressive regime. The press freedom ranking of 158 during Abhisit’s government was well higher than the worse press ranking Thailand had when democratically elected Thaksin Shinawatra was Prime Minister (107th place in 2005).
Now, since Thaksin Shinawatra’s younger sister, Yingluck, has been democratically elected on July 3, 2011, we see a dramatic increase in press freedom. She hasn’t shut down any newspapers, magazines or radio stations nor has she arrested or had the army shoot and kill any reporters as Abhisit had done.
Nevertheless, there is a great deal which Yingluck needs to do in order to further improve Thailand’s press freedom ranking. Repealing the draconian Lèse Majesté Law and the Computer Crimes Act would be a great start. Also, releasing Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Joe Gordon and others from prison would also improve the press freedom ranking as well as improve the overall status of Thailand as a member of the international community.