Govt to have more control over media under new bill

The junta’s National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) has proposed a new bill to set moral standards for the media which it blames for social ills. Media groups, however, say the bill gives the government greater control.

Six leading media associations plan to meet at the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) on Sunday  29 January 2017 to voice their stance against the NRSA’ Media Reform Bill.

The six are the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), the National Press Council (NPC), the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand (NBCT), the Online News Providers Association (ONPA), Thailand’s Cable TV Association (TCTA), and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA).

The latest version of the bill was published on 13 January 2017 after getting the green light from the cabinet in early 2016 before it was sent to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and NRSA for consideration.

Citing the media as one factor in many social problems, the NRSA draft bill outlines ethical and moral standards for all kinds of media with penalties for non-compliance.

According to iLaw, a human rights advocacy group promoting freedom of expression, the bill gives many openings for the state to intervene the work of the media through a licensing system.

The bill requires all kinds of media to be licensed and sets up a National Council of Media Professions to ensure the industry acts in accordance with the regulations set out under the bill.

The bill also states that all media should adhere to vaguely defined ‘media ethics’ and not present news content that violates ‘good public morale’.

Wanchai Wongmeechai, TJA chairman, agreed with iLaw in saying the bill is a clear attempt by the state to control the media. “The NRSA’s draft law can lead to conditions that allow interference in the media’s work,” the Bangkok Post quoted the TJA chairman as saying.

He added that the bill does not enhance the principles of media freedom, but ironically gives the government a greater opportunity for controlling the media.

Wanchai added that the TJA and other media organizations in the Confederation of Thai Journalists will submit an open letter to the NRSA.