Authorities shut down Voice TV programme for 7 days

The Thai media regulator has suspended a news programme on Voice TV, a digital TV channel owned by Panthongtae Shinawatra, the son of controversial former Prime Minister Thaksin.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) on Monday, 29 August 2016, voted 3 to 1 to suspend transmission for seven days of Wake Up News, a popular morning news programme of Voice TV.   

The NBTC reasoned that the programme presenters had violated the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Voice TV and the NBTC. According to the authorities, the MoU bans content which could be viewed as a violation of junta orders prohibiting content which could affect good public morals and national security.

Supinya Klangnarong, NBTC Commissioner, wrote on her Twitter account that although the majority voted for the suspension of the programme, she disagrees with the measure.

“The weak point of Wake Up News is that the news commentators tend to add their opinions while reading news, which makes it seem biased, but this does not go against good public morals or national security,” Supinya wrote.

She pointed out that the NBTC subcommittee proposed the ban because they felt that the programme’s reporting on Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, an anti-junta activist arrested for distributing anti-draft charter leaflets and who subsequently staged a hunger strike before his release, was biased in favour of the activist.

As an NBTC Commissioner who opposed the suspension, she added “Certain opinions that the state might dislike aren’t necessarily illegal. The NBTC must consider which content is against the law and use this as criteria.”

According to Sirote Klampaiboon, one of the Wake Up News commentators, the NBTC on 22 August invited programme managers and commentators to discuss two other issues besides the reports on the hunger-striking activist.

One was the analysis of the Mother’s Day attacks which Assoc Prof Srisomphob Jitpisomsri suggested were likely to be the work of the Deep South insurgent groups rather than the red shirts as the authorities had earlier suggested.

The other was about the National Legislative Assembly’s attempts to allow unelected senators to join the House of Representatives in nominating the Prime Minister.

Sirote also reported that at the 22 August meeting with the NBTC, the chairman of the meeting was an army officer who claimed to be a deputy head of the media committee of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

Earlier, the NBTC banned two programme commentators, ML Nattakorn Devakula and Atukkit Sawangsuk, for 10 days from 15-24 August as an alternative to banning the Voice TV programme.