Voice TV ban unconstitutional: media associations

Thai media associations have voiced opposition to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission decision to temporarily ban Voice TV, saying it should safeguard media freedom rather than bow down to the junta.

On 28 March 2017, the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA) issued a joint statement against the decision by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to prohibit Voice TV from broadcasting for seven days.

The two media associations urged the NBTC to reconsider the ban, pointing out that the ban is against the constitution.

“The NBTC is an independent organisation with the authority and duty to prevent outside influences from intervening in the independence of the media … [the ban] destroys the credibility of the NBTC and affects freedom of the press,” stated the joint letter.

If certain Voice TV programmes affect national security or the rights of individuals, the NBTC should consider them on a case by case basis. The Commission should not shut down the entire TV channel, which affects the livelihoods of many employees.

On 27 March, Lt Gen Peerapong Manakit, a member of the NBCT, announced the decision to temporarily suspend the broadcasting of Voice TV for seven days starting on 28 March 2017.

The ban was initially proposed by the junta’s media regulatory team. According to a petition sent by the junta to the NBTC, Voice TV published inaccurate stories between 15 and 20 March covering the junta’s operations at Wat Dhammakaya, its crackdown on the Kotee network, the summary killing of a Lahu activist and allegations that police are involved in a controversial casino located in a disputed Thai-Cambodian zone.

The petition accused the programmes of being one-sided and misleading the public. They were considered a breach of NCPO Announcement 97/2014 (the junta’s media regulations), the related NCPO Announcement 103/2014, and the NBCT Act.

On 29 August 2016, the NBTC voted 3 to 1 to suspend for seven days the transmission of Wake Up News, a popular morning news programme on Voice TV.   

The NBTC reasoned that the programme presenters had violated a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Voice TV and the NBTC. According to the authorities, the MoU banned content that could affect good public morals and national security.

Under NCPO Head Order No. 41/2016 enacted on 13 July 2016, the NBTC has the authority to summarily close down any media that fails to cooperate with the junta or that presents information deemed as a threat to national security.