BANGKOK – The Editor-in-Chief of Thailand’s largest Newspaper, The Bangkok Post has told the Associated Press that he was sidelined for refusing to tone down news coverage critical of the country’s military government.
Umesh Pandey said Tuesday that he lost his post as editor-in-chief of the Bangkok Post after a meeting with company executives where he was told that government officials had been pressuring them.
Pandey said he started working at the newspaper, one of Thailand’s main English-language Newspapers in Bangkok, in 2006 and became editor-in-chief in 2016.
“I gave my staff a free hand, saying ‘do as much as you can and I will protect you and I’ve been protecting them,'” Pandey said. Pandey said he was still employed by the newspaper but has no active role.
Kowit Sanandang the Bangkok Post’s Publisher and the newspaper’s parent company, Post Publishing Plc. had no immediate comment.
However, speaking on condition of anonymity – citing the sensitivity of the issue and fear of retaliation – five current and former staffers blamed him for driving away many newsroom employees, creating a toxic environment and breaching ethics.
“There are few people in the office who like him,” one source, a staff writer who worked under Umesh, said. “When many people quit, one reason was because they they didn’t like him. He changed many company procedures.”
An employee in an administrative position at the paper said Umesh treated reporters as expendable.
“Nearly 50 of our brightest people left us,” said the source, who currently works in an administrative position at the paper.
One of the sources interviewed by Khaosod News said the paper had become driven by political biases and was neglecting to maintain impartiality.
Speaking Tuesday, the junta chief disputed that his government – which has at times come down hard on the media – interfered with the newspaper’s decision to sideline its editor.
“What does a prime minister have to do with this? It’s an issue within a private company,” Prayuth told reporters Tuesday afternoon when asked.
Since seizing power in 2014, government has postponed elections and amended laws to try to ensure it keeps power. It also has sought to stifle dissent and exert more control over mass media.
In 2017, it proposed legislation that would have required journalists to be licensed that was staunchly opposed by Thai media organizations.
Meanwhile, Thai Journalists Association chairman Poramet Lekpetch said Umesh’s removal was an “internal matter” for the Bangkok Post.
“We don’t have sufficient information to make a comment on this,” said Poramet, whose organization recently called on the junta to lift its restrictions on press freedom. “We believe this is an internal matter.”
The newspaper has neither reported on the removal of its editor nor named a replacement.
The Bangkok Post employs approximately 179 journalists, including reporters, re-writers, editors, copy-editors, photographers, and designers. Twenty-nine foreign nationals work as copy-editors and print and digital news editors.
Sunday editor Paul Ruffini is an Australian national.
All Bangkok Post staff reporters are Thai nationals, as fluency in Thai required. Foreign staff write for the newspaper’s news, op-ed, sports, business, and features sections.
The major shareholders in Post Publishing include the Chirathivat family (owners of Central Group), the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong and GMM Grammy Pcl, Thailand’s biggest media and entertainment company.