Thailand’s six media organizations cry foul over Government’s media gag orders
The Thai Journalists Association, Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, Confederation of Thai Journalists, National Press Council of Thailand, News Broadcasting Council of Thailand, Online News Providers Association issued a joint statement today (Monday) opposing all forms of intimidation of the media and blocking of media in the performance of their duty, following the Government’s order clamping down on four of the country’s media outlets.
The Joint Command for the Administration of Emergency Situation, headed by the National Police Chief, Pol Gen Suwat Jaengyodsook, has instructed the Ministry of Digital Economy and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), the country’s broadcast media regulator, to consider suspending the operations or deleting electronic content, which is deemed to be misleading in a way which may cause public panic or undermines national security, of four broadcast and digital media outlets, namely Voice TV, Prachatai.com, The Reporters and The Standard.
The Thai media organizations said that the order, from the Joint Command for the Administration of Emergency Situation, may contradict Section 35 of the Constitution, which states, in essence, that shutting down printed or other media outlets, to curtail press freedom, cannot be done unless the alleged violations by the media are clearly evident and that the state must act with caution and within reasonable limits.
Legal action against media outlets risks escalating the political conflict and encourage more people to join the anti-government protests, said the media organizations.
In the meantime, they urged all media to present their news coverage of the protests in a fair, balanced and truthful manner, and to exercise caution when presenting news which may trigger violence.
Meanwhile, Pol Gen Suwat today assured the public that the authorities have no intention to censor or close any media outlets, but will manage some information, adding that additional “guidelines”, for news presentation by the media under the present circumstances, are yet to be announced.
In his capacity as the Chief of the Joint Command, he said that he has a duty to perform, after he received complaints about misleading or distorted information, which may lead to public confusion or unrest.
He defended the need for the special law to cope with the special situation.
“We, the police, are in the middle of two opposing groups. One agrees with the special law while the other opposes it. We have no choice but to enforce the law, but we will do it appropriately and in line with the situation,” said the National Police Chief.