By THE NATION
Chakkrish Permpool, adviser to the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) and a member of its media ethics panel, said on Tuesday it was “regrettable” that the media reform committee had opted for “authoritarianism” in regulating the media industry.
Air Chief Marshal Kanit Suwannet, head of the media reform committee under the NRSA, said that despite the panel’s resolution on the central issues in the bill, it could not be submitted to the NRSA whip immediately because the revision also affected other articles in the draft.
His committee had to review it and ensure that the order of articles and all the references were correct, he added.
Kanit continued to insist it was necessary to establish a media professional council. He said the new constitution ensured freedom of the press, so the new media professional council would not curb media freedom but would oversee ethical issues. Police Maj-General Pisit Pao-in, the committee’s vice chairperson, said earlier that in the latest revision, media personnel would be licensed – and a failure to register would result in penalties of up to two years in jail or a fine of up to Bt60,000, which was a new component proposed in the draft bill.
The panel also insisted on having two permanent secretaries sitting on the proposed media professional council, despite strong opposition by media groups, which said this could lead to interference by the state.
Veteran journalist Chakkrish said it was regrettable that the committee was paying no heed to media professionals who had raised concerns over the draft bill, arguing that no other country in the world would do such a thing.
The new penalties proposed by the NRSA panel are “unprecedentedly peculiar”, he added, referring to the proposal of a two-year jail term and a fine of up to Bt60,000 for those failing to register with the media council.
Chakkrish said that even during authoritarian eras, such penalties had not been imposed against the media.
“Reporting is not a crime,” he said. “It is performing a duty as a watchdog. In fact, there are a number of criminal laws that already keep media performance in check, without the necessity to have such a direct criminal offence waiting for them like this.”