The Thai authorities have given the green light to a bill to establish a National Media Council, saying that it will improve media ethics and freedom. However, some say that the bill will do the opposite.
According to Post-today news, on Monday, 20 July 2015, a majority of National Reform Council (NRC) members voted to approve a bill to protect media freedom. 167 NRC members voted in favour of the bill while 20 voted against it. 27 members abstained.
Most NRC members voted for the bill after the Council accepted a report from the Committee on Media Reform and Mass Communication Technology, which proposed the bill.
According to Wasan Paileaklee, the Deputy Chair of the Media Reform Committee, the bill will improve media freedom and ethics and will enhance people’s participation in observing the role of the media.
He pointed out that in Article 5 of the proposed bill, a National Media Council will be established as an independent agency under the Media Reform Committee.
The funding of the Media Council will be from state revenue from so-called ‘vice’ taxes, or 5 per cent of the budget for the National Broadcasting Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) which is about 50 million baht, including donations.
Although the bill is meant to improve media freedom and ethics, some believe that it is likely to result in the opposite.
Tawinwadee Burikul, one NRC member, pointed out that forming a Media Council which receives most of its budget from the state might pave the way for the state to have more control over the organisation.
Voravit Sriananraksa, another NRC member, said that the media can already observe and monitor themselves to maintain ethics and standards. Therefore, there is no need for such a council.
He agreed with Tawinwadee that the establishment of a National Media Council might give the state more control over the media.
The bill will be sent to the cabinet and then to the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) for further deliberation.