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Bill endangers media survival

May 04. 2017
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By WASAMON AUDJARINT
THE NATION

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PROMINENT MEDIA figures and rights activists are concerned whether the Thai media would survive suppression of press freedom in the wake of existing and future measures of the junta government.

The source of the worry is the media regulation bill draft proposed by the junta-appointed National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) and is now to being considered by the Cabinet.

The draft bill has proved controversial as media groups and civil organisations strongly oppose any form of state control or interference in new mechanisms proposed in the draft bill, including a media professional council, which would include two permanent secretaries. It also gives a vague definition of media professionals that could possibly cover other kinds of content providers, such as bloggers.

“The bill, if enforced, will be a legacy for elected governments. It will be illogical to have these state-interfering mechanisms under democratic governments in the future,” said Mongkol Bangprapa, vice president and secretary-general of the Thai Journalists Association.

“Like the NRSA members said themselves, any future legal enactment has to take into account what future governments will be like.”

As the Human Rights Watch (HRW) website experienced a temporary block shortly after the 2014 coup, Sunai Phasuk, HRW senior researcher, was concerned that the bill draft would target NGOs and rights advocates who don’t speak in favour of authority. “Any call we make will simply be [seen as] threat to national security,” he said. 

Sunai added that what matters more than the NRSA is the junta itself. From a series of Article 44 orders to strong enforcement of lese majeste, the Computer Crime Act and the sedition law, people could see a continued repressing trend from the junta.

Concern over the bill was raised during a World Press Freedom Day event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT). The original discussion topic was the missing Siamese Revolution plaque, but it was cancelled following a notice from Lumpini Police Station.

US Ambassador Glyn T Davies was part of the event. He said: “On this day, we celebrate freedom of the press as a necessary component of transparent democratic governance and the indispensable role journalists play in advancing peace and justice for all.” Meanwhile, the media reform committee’s revisions of the controversial media regulation draft bill will take about a week before the proposal is submitted to the government for further implementation.

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