Authorities can shut down media without accountability under new junta order

As the referendum on the junta-sponsored draft charter draws near, the Thai junta leader has given power to a national media regulator to close down media critical of the regime without any accountability.   

The Royal Gazette website on Thursday, 13 July 2016, published the latest order of the Thai junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head’s Order No. 41/2016.

The order, authorised by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, gives authority to the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to close down any media which fails to cooperate with the junta or presents information deemed as a threat to national security.

To authorise the new order, the junta premier invoked Section 44 of the Interim Constitution which gives the regime absolute power.

In brief, Article 1 of the order states that media which presents information deemed to violate NCPO Announcements No. 97/2014 and 103/2014 or Article 37 of the Radio Broadcasting and Television Act 2008 can be closed down at the discretion of the NBTC.

In other words, the NBTC has the power to shut down media which presents information critical of the military government or information which is deemed to be a threat to national security or the Thai monarchy.

Under Article 2 of Order No. 41/2016, the NBTC cannot be held accountable for closing down media which presents such information.   

The order, however, adds that media facing a shut-down order can still file a case to demand compensation from the NBTC.