Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Finland invited Pravit Rojanaphruk to World Press Freedom Day conference in Helsinki. He was denied exit of his home country and was thus unable to attend.
Mr. Rojanaphruk is famous for his opposition to the military regime as a journalist. He has criticized particularly lèse majeste, which prevents the criticism of Thai rulers.
He has been arrested twice on the junta’s orders and forced to sign a contract that prevents him from leaving the country without the junta’s permission. He was forced to give up his position at The Nation newspaper last September due to pressure. He had worked at the publication for 23 years.
“The junta gave me no explanation as to why I was prevented to attend the conference. They called me, and told me, that the commander thinks I should not attend”, he tells.
A representative for the junta commented that the travel permission was denied due to Mr. Rojanaphruk’s continued criticism of the regime in the internet, the Australian news channel ABC reported.
“The decision to prevent me from attending the conference is evidence of the junta’s repressive and dictatorial way to govern the country. They are shooting themselves in the foot with this decision to stop a journalist from leaving the country to a global freedom of the press conference”, Mr. Rojanaphruk comments.
Finland’s ambassador to Thailand Kirsi Westphalen deeply regrets the junta’s decision to block Mr. Rojanaphruk’s attendance at Helsinki conference.
“The junta has announced its decision, and we take it as a given”, the ambassador commented.
Westphalen says press freedom in Thailand weakened significantly after the military seized power in May 2014. Many local journalists have opted for self-censorship as a means to exercise their profession. It is difficult for journalists to guess what can be written and what cannot.
“Those who do not censor their stories end up isolated in secret places, and are prevented from traveling. The choices Thailand’s journalists’ must make to continues working are very depressing”, Westphalen notes.
Mr. Rojanaphruk was on the short list for Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Prize in 2016.
This article was first published on lehdistonvapaus.fi, a site for press freedom related news. It is a joint project of Haaga-Helia School of Journalism and The Helsingin Sanomat Foundation. It will be published for the length of 250th anniversary of press freedom in Finland. All stories published on the site are published under the Creative Commons licence.
Text: Janne Puumalainen
Translation: Taika Dahlbom
Photo: Index on Censorship