Thai PBS stands firm on TV programme about anti-junta activists

After being summoned by the Thai broadcasting authorities, Thai PBS, a public media company supported by the state, clarified that it was only doing its duty in broadcasting a TV programme about the 14 embattled anti-junta activists.

According to Thai PBS News, Wanchai Tantiwitthayaphithak, Deputy Director of the Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS), on Thursday, 2 July 2015, said that the recent Thai PBS TV programme about the 14 anti-junta activists is not a violation of the 2007 Act to Assign Radio Frequencies and Regulate Broadcasting and Telecommunication Services.

He mentioned that the Thai PBS was only doing its duty as a media outlet in the public interest.

“As a public media outlet, Thai PBS performs its role strictly in accordance with Article 4 of the Thai PBS Act (governing the Thai PBS code of conduct and operations) to promote media freedom and foster a democratic society in which people can have equal access to information,” said Wanchai.

On Monday, 29 June 2015, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission of Thailand (NBCT) summoned for discussion the executive board members of Thai PBS over a TV news programme called “the Analysis of the Movement of the Student Activists under the Governance of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)”, a TV programme on the 14 anti-junta student activists, which was broadcast on June 28.

The TV programme presented background on the 14 embattled anti-junta activists most of whom are students, such as the Dao Din Group from northeastern Khon Kaen Province, which together with local villagers has long been engaged in activities against a gold mine in Loei Province.

According to Wanchai, the NBCT received complaints that the programme might incite political conflicts.

Specifically, the NBCT mentioned that the programme content on the student activists might violate Article 37 of the 2007 Act to Assign Radio Frequencies and Regulate Broadcasting and Telecommunication Services, which states that that the NBTC shall refer to Article 27 of the Act to fine or issue notifications to TV stations which broadcast inappropriate content prior to suspending broadcasting licenses.

Moreover, the TV station could also be liable for violating NCPO announcement No. 97/2014 on cooperation with the NCPO and No. 103/2014 on the distribution of information.

The NBCT Broadcasting Committee, however, has not finalised what measures it should take on the matter.

After the summons, Supinya Klangnarong, a member of the Broadcasting Committee, on Wednesday posted on Twitter that she was concerned about the NBCT’s decision and urged NBCT committee members to stick to principles.

“[I’m] very concerned about the NBCT’s summons of Thai PBS for clarification over the news on the student activists especially the Dao Din group” wrote Supinya on Twitter. “[I] know that the authorities are now very concerned with the movements of student activists, even if they are peaceful, to the point of arresting them. However, the NBCT should also maintain some balance for the media and not just say that this and that is against national security and cannot be mentioned.”