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Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand Statement on Section 44

The professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) shares the concerns expressed by four Thai media organisations over the new powers announced by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) under Article 44 of the interim constitution, as outlined in the report below posted on 2 April on the website of broadcaster Thai PBS.
 
The new order gives military officers sweeping powers to censor the media, with harsh punishments possible for journalists deemed not to be in compliance. We join these organisations in urging the authorities to provide clear guidelines on how they will handle reports they consider problematic.
 
We also hope that all news organisations, both foreign and domestic, covering Thailand’s complex and divisive politics will strive for objectivity, fairness and accuracy at all times. These organizations must be given proper credit for making such efforts and not have their reports misrepresented by any party.
 
Thai PBS Report 2 April on Article 44 Statement by 4 Media Organisations
 
“Four media organisations have jointly voiced their serious concern with a provision of Section 44 which empowers security authorities to use their full discretion to deal with any media which presents a report which is deemed a security threat, a distortion of fact which may cause public misunderstanding or which may cause public panic.
 
 
“In a joint statement issued on Thursday, the National Press Council of Thailand, the Thai Journalists Association, the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand and the Thai Broadcasting Journalists Association a provision or Order No 3.2558 pronounced by virtue of Section 44 of the interim Constitution is a greater threat to the free expressions of the people and the media than the martial law.
 
“The provision in question empowers security authorities to ban news presentation, distribution or dissemination of publications. Those who defy the order of the security authorities are liable to a one-year jail term and/or a fine of 20,000 baht.
 
“The media organisations suggested that there must be clear guidelines or rules for the security authorities in their exercising of discretion.
 
“Moreover, they demanded Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha in his capacity as head of the National Council for Peace and Order to set a clear rule of performance for the security authorities in charge of overseeing the media so that members of the public and the media can rest assured that the use of discretion by the authorities is done in a constructive manner as pledged by the NCPO.”