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Govt may control media under charter: Boonlert

Feb 26. 2016
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THE CHARTER draft could grant overwhelming authority to the government in regulating the media, including organisations’ utilisation and their radio frequencies and satellite orbit slots, said Boonlert Khachayutthadech, an adviser to the National Reform S

Boonlert said the Constitution Drafting Commission had addressed radio-frequency and satellite-orbit regulations in the Duties of the State section of Article 56, meaning the state would be a principal body in carrying out the tasks.

This is in contrast to the 1997 Constitution, where the equivalent article was put under the section concerning people’s rights and freedoms, including the media’s rights and freedom, Boonlert said at a seminar in a Bangkok hotel yesterday. 
“This means it would be more difficult for people to cite the charter for their own benefits,” said Boonlert, a former member of the now-defunct National Reform Council’s media committee.
The absence of the term “independent government agency” in the article makes it vague on what body would be responsible for handling the regulations, he added.
Independent agencies, he said, had long been responsible for designating radio frequencies and regulating the broadcasting industry. 
It is also unclear what state body would regulate satellite orbits, whether it would be any a ministry or a panel, Boonlert said, adding that the terms defining satellite orbits were insufficiently defined.
He also feared that some articles would infringe on the media’s roles, such as Article 34 in the People’s Rights and Freedoms section. The article states that people and the media are free to express opinions provided they do not incite hatred and threaten security.
“This was never present in any previous charters,” he said. “Future organic laws may have to be issued to enforce the authority in this particular duty.” 
At the same seminar, Thailand Development Research Institute chairman Somkiat Tangkitvanich presented TDRI research on regulations on media convergence. Somkiat said separate regulations covering the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors were no longer effective as the sectors had become more integrated. 
He suggested changes be carried out to relevant acts and laws and that fair regulations be created in regards to media convergence.
He also recommended that new legal instruments as well as codes of conduct be developed parallel with creating a comprehensive set of media regulations to cover both media producers and consumers.

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