Rights groups condemn Thai junta for interference in Thai PBS TV channel

Despite the junta’s rhetoric about initiating a national reform debate for a ‘functioning democracy’, the junta’s interference in a Thai PBS programme which allowed people to voice opinions on reform ironically shows how the junta is doing the opposite, according to civil society groups. 
 
According to Isara News Agency, executives of Thailand’s Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS) obeyed the junta by removing Nattaya Wawweerakhup from the programme “Voices of the People that must be heard before the Reform” after the military pressured the TV channel. They also changed the programme from talks with villagers and activists to merely reporting news from the area. The military reportedly were not satisfied with Nattaya, who hosted the program, when asking questions of villagers and activists on reform.
 
Six human rights and civil society organizations, including the Human Rights Lawyers Association and the Cross Cultural Foundation, on Friday evening publicly condemned the junta for breaching press freedom and ruining the foundations of democracy.
 
The joint statement of the group stated that the junta’s media interference violated Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which stipulated that people have undeniable rights to access and distribute information and that the military’s measures to interfere in the press are unacceptable.
 
Moreover, the group pointed out that the media and the press must uphold social responsibility and follow the International Principles of Professional Ethics in Journalism in order to contribute to a more just society. 
 
The groups urged the following recommendations on the junta and the press: 
  1. The authorities should stop using martial law to abuse the basic rights and freedoms of the media and the media should be allowed to offer news freely to the public in accordance with professional ethics.
  2. Thai PBS and other media should have the moral courage to safeguard media freedom and the people’s right to receive information.
  3. Thai PBS and other media should offer space for people to voice opinions about national reform plans as they are citizens and the rightful owners of the country with the right to decide together which direction Thai society should take. 
Since the military coup in May, the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has repeatedly intervened and pressured the media. It has regularly invited media editors to meetings in military compounds and threatened them not to criticize the military regime. 
Read related news