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Thai journalists turn to social media as military tightens control

With martial law in place, covering Thailand's coup has not been a straightforward task for many local media organisations.

BANGKOK: The Thai media are no stranger to covering military coups and political turmoil. Unfortunately, the martial law in place now has hampered the way news can be reported.

For television reporters the challenge has been overwhelming.

After martial law was declared, army troops occupied most TV stations around Bangkok. And since the coup, all TV programmes were taken off-air for a period of time.

Channels were only allowed to broadcast military-approved announcements and programmes.

It is not an easy job reporting on the political development after the coup in Thailand, and some local journalists have had to improvise to tell their stories. Several local journalists have resorted to using social media as reporting tools -- uploading video clips and dispatching reports from the field with their mobile phones.

Thapanee Letsrichai, a Thai journalist, said: "As a field journalist when we are on location, we want to tell people about what's happening. Personally, we have private spaces in the social media like Instragram, Twitter, and Facebook. So I have been using short Instragram videos to report from different locations."

For the news-hungry Thai public, the clamping down on media freedom has resulted in the proliferation of social media usage, which has also encouraged the circulation of rumors online.

This is worrying many local journalists, and has prompted them to take matters into their own hands.

Fellow Thai journalist Penpan Lamluang, said: "The real worry now is that there are lots of rumours on social media and we as journalist must not disseminate rumours that could further damage the situation. As journalists, we must stick to reporting truthfully based on facts."

Suparp Klee-khajai, president of the Thailand Digital TV Operators Association, said: "The media is a symbol of freedom. Freedom of the media symbolises the level of democracy in countries around the world.

"Countries with a greater degree of democracy mean their media has more freedom. Countries with limited democracy mean their press has fewer rights. The way the press here has been treated reflects the fragile nature of our democracy."

The Thai military may believe that they can resolve the political conflict by controlling the flow of information, but it remains to be seen how effective this tactic will be in the long-term. 

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