Thai media concerned over rapid passage of new media regulation law
Thai media professionals have expressed concern that the government may be pushing for a speedy deliberation of a government-sponsored bill to promote the ethics of media organisations and practitioners, expected to be submitted to the joint sitting of the Senate and House on Tuesday.
Supan Rakchuea, president of the News Broadcast Council of Thailand, told Thai PBS on Friday that the government appears unusually keen to pass the bill, initiated by the Public Relations Department and drafted by the Council of State.
He cited the fact that Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan wrote a letter to Parliament President Chuan Leekpai on September 6th last year, asking him to add the bill to the agenda for emergency deliberations in parliament.
Supan said that the bill is part and parcel of a media reform effort, as mandated by the Constitution.
The legal affairs and rights panel of the News Broadcast Council of Thailand opposes the bill, claiming that it is a duplication of Section 35 of the Constitution, which guarantees the rights, liberties and free expression of media professionals.
One of the highlights of the bill is that members of the state media have the right to defy the orders of their superiors, if such orders are deemed to violate media ethics, but the exercise of such a right must take into account the objective or mission of state media.
According to the bill, a media professional council will be established, to be run by a 10-member board selected from among people who have experience of or are specialised in professional media, human rights or in consumer protection laws. The council will receive annual funding of 25 million baht from the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Research and Development Fund for the Public Interest.
Media outlets will be required to register with the council in order to get financial support.
Supan said that, if the government truly wants to promote ethics and professional standards of media outlets and practitioners, it should promote public participation in monitoring and checking media professionals’ ethical and legal compliance, instead of seeking to control the media through the creation of a media council and financial support.