Shutdown of red shirt TV ‘disproportionate’: Thai media association

A media association in Thailand has claimed that the Thai authorities’ shutdown of a TV station affiliated with the anti-establishment red shirts is ‘disproportionate’ and seems partial.

Supan Rakcher, the Deputy President of Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA), in the early hours of Wednesday morning, posted a statement from the TBJA on its Facebook page to urge the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission of Thailand (NBCT)’s Broadcasting Committee to reconsider the decision to suspend the broadcasting license of  Peace TV, a TV station affiliated with the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), a red-shirt group.

The TBJA stated that the NBTC board’s decision seems to have skipped the ‘appropriate’ procedures to punish broadcasting operators stated under Article 37 of the 2007 Act to Assign Radio Frequencies and Regulate Broadcasting and Telecommunication Services.

In brief, Article 37 of the Act states that the NBTC shall refer to Article 27 of the Act to issue notifications or fine TV stations which broadcast inappropriate content prior to suspending broadcasting licenses.

TBJA pointed out that the fact that the NBTC chose to withhold Peace TV’s broadcasting license immediately without issuing warnings to the TV station first seems to be partial.

On Monday, Supinya Klangnarong, one of the members of the NBTC’s Broadcasting Committee, posted on her twitter account that she voiced opposition against the NBTC’s measure.

"I agree that, in principle, the NBTC should increase its efforts to regulate TV channels to prevent the problem of reproducing hatred and incitement, but it should be proportionate," Supinya wrote. "We should not just jump from never using power to using power to the maximum extent," Khaosod English quoted Supinya as saying.

"From what I have seen, Peace TV does not use rude language like another channel that belongs to the same political group. The content may be seen as criticizing state power from a sceptical viewpoint," Supinya wrote on twitter.

The decision to suspend Peace TV’s broadcasting license was made on Monday.

Natee Sukonrat, the chair of the NBCT’s Broadcasting Committee, said that the decision was made because the TV station repeatedly broadcast inappropriate programmes, which are sensitive to national security.

In early April, the NBTC issued an order to suspend for seven days the broadcasting signals for Peace TV and TV 24, two TV stations affiliated with UDD.  Peace TV was barred from going on air from 10 to 16 April while TV 24 faced the same prohibition from 11 to 17 April.

The NBTC claimed that programmes on both stations caused public confusion and divisiveness, and incited conflict.