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Population: 70 million
Internet penetration: 88%

Media freedom remains constrained after years of tight control by leading politicians, the military, and other elites. Thai media remain free to criticise government policies and cover instances of corruption, but a strict lese-majesty law prohibits reporting that is critical of the royal family. Journalists also tend to exercise self-censorship regarding the military, the judiciary, and a range of other sensitive issues.

Last year's elections sparked much hope among young people in particular about a shift towards democracy, with a strong showing for reformist groups Move Forward and the Pheu Thai party. One year on, this optimism dimmed after backroom deals which saw Pheu Thai forming a coalition with parties backed by the military. Once democracy champions, Pheu Thai’s alignment with conservative forces has bewildered supporters, eroding trust. The release from prison of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, just a few months after his return from exile following his eight-year conviction for historic abuse of power, has further deepened public scepticism around commitment to change.

Against this background, transparent reporting, fostering accountability, and informed discussion remain in short supply, with the press mostly afraid to speak out against powerful elites – and with self-censorship still widely practised in mainstream media. News coverage of the royal family is a case in point. While online and social media platforms serve as conduits for alternative perspectives, traditional news agencies often tread cautiously, mostly refraining from delving beyond establishment-sanctioned narratives. The recent arrest and ongoing legal proceedings against a news reporter and photographer, after their coverage of anti-lese-majesty graffiti at the Grand Palace, underscore the precarious nature of journalistic freedom in the country.1 Meanwhile the issues of the royal succession remain unresolved. Concerns regarding the whereabouts of the king's eldest daughter and the sudden return of his exiled son from the US persist, serving as focal points of heightened online discussion.

Thais are deeply immersed in the digital world, enthusiastically embracing social media as a primary news source. Platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Line, and TikTok have become integral parts of daily life. Among these social media, YouTube is the most important as a platform for generating income for individuals and publishers. Thailand is also a leading market for TikTok's entertaining content, with a remarkable 39% of users now turning to the platform for news – a significant 9-point jump from 2023. This trend signifies a growing openness to diverse sources of information and a willingness to engage with news in innovative ways, potentially paving the way for a more dynamic and inclusive media landscape in Thailand. The trend of online celebrities (and journalists) cultivating personal brands while reporting the news is set to flourish further, with their follower counts anticipated to soar.

Multichannel TV, via cable and satellite, is widely available in Thailand, with leading providers including Channel 3 HD, Thai Rath TV, and Channel 7 HD. But broadcast licences are expensive and some have given them up to pursue online-only opportunities, with others expected to follow. Meanwhile, Thailand’s privately run print media have also been struggling, with just a handful of Thai-language dailies accounting for most newspaper sales. Traditional media dominate online consumption, however, with Thai Rath being the leading provider with a 46% share, followed by Khaosod online at 26%. Popular news talk programmes like Hone-Krasae on Channel 3 HD attract millions of viewers daily on YouTube, highlighting the public's fascination with opinion-driven content.

Meanwhile, in a surprise move, Voice TV, a channel closely aligned with Thaksin, announced it would be closing down amidst an identity crisis in his camp and the rise of new political movements. Launched in 2008, Voice TV started as a satellite channel but later became a digital pioneer, streaming content via YouTube and Facebook. Around 100 staff members and journalists will lose their jobs.

The need to compete for attention online has led many mainstream news providers towards more sensationalist reporting, exemplified by extensive coverage of a foreign expat assaulting a local Thai doctor in Phuket, sparking debates on policies around property ownership. Meanwhile, the Thai public’s voracious appetite for supernatural beliefs was highlighted by the attention given to a giant gargoyle-like statue of a winged man with fangs and talons that was installed outside a Bangkok hotel. Some came to worship the statue of a supposed revered teacher of the Khmer faith called Kru Kai Kaew, as a ‘god of wealth’, even asking for blessings for their lottery numbers. In contrast, others called it sacrilegious and demanded its removal.2 The saga led to extensive coverage and debate in mainstream and social media platforms.

Professor Jantima Kheokao
Asian Network for Public Opinion Research (ANPOR)
Dhanaraj Kheokao
Potsdam University, Germany

Changing media

Although television remains an important source of news for older Thais, our more educated, urban sample relies heavily on online and social media sources for news. The most important social media platforms for news include Facebook, YouTube, Line, and TikTok.


Trust in news overall



In the wake of last year’s election, trust in the news is slightly up at 54% (+3pp). Thais continue to have considerable trust in most mainstream news brands, due to a combination of traditional deference and their role in verifying and investigating information first seen in social networks. This dynamic has helped maintain credibility despite the proliferation of platforms like TikTok.

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 58.12

Measure of press freedom from NGO Reporters Without Borders based on expert assessment. More at

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