Human rights award recognises Thai freedom-of-expression advocate
A 33 year old Thai woman battling Thailand’s national government and powerful corporate sector over human rights and journalistic freedom was awarded the inaugural Communication and Social Change Award 2006.
General Secretary of the Thai media advocacy group, ‘Campaign for Popular Media Reform’ (CPMR), Ms Supinya Klangnarong received the award from the University of Queensland at a ceremony in Brisbane on 22 September 2006. The Award was presented to help mark the 85th anniversary of the founding of journalism studies at the University’s School of Journalism and Communication, the longest established journalism program in Australia and one of the oldest in the world.
Head of School, Professor Jan Servaes said that the award recognises the moral courage and on-going commitment demonstrated by Supinya Klangnarong and the ‘Campaign for Popular Media Reform’ in the furtherance of freedom of expression, media pluralism and communication for social change in Thailand.
In recent months, Supinya fought and won a defamation case brought by Thai telecommunications giant, Shin Corp, seeking US$10-million. Freedom of expression advocates around the world have acclaimed the ruling as an important victory for the right to freedom of expression globally.
Shin Corp was founded by Thailand's Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra and owned by his family. In early 2006, the family sold its 49% share in Shin Corp to Singapore's Temasek Holdings.The defamation suit followed comments made by Supinya and published in the Thai Post newspaper that Shin Corp profits had soared since the election of the Prime Minister and questioned the relationship between Thai politics and commercial interests.
Supinya Klangnarong expressed both joy and frustration during her acceptance speech. While in the plane on her way to Brisbane, Thai military had once again staged a military coup which nullified the 1997 Constitution and dissolved the democratic process. She was clearly disappointed with the coup. She said that while Thaksin heavily controlled freedom of expression, military rule could also lead to a show of force, especially with the abolishment of the Constitution. She cited how articles 39, 40, 41 of the 1997 Constitution had at least guaranteed media freedoms, even if nothing much had changed in those 9 years that the Constitution was in effect. “Now we have to start all over again”.
The ‘Campaign for Popular Media Reform’ believes the broadcast frequency spectrum belongs to the Thai people and should be regulated and distributed responsibly to benefit the public interest.