Voice TV back on air, forced into self-censorship

After a seven-day ban by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), Voice TV is back on air, but for the time being there will be no programmes critical of the authorities.

After the NBTC 7-day ban came to an end on 4 April 2017, Prateep Kongsib, Director of Voice TV’s news programme, published a statement on the Voice TV website called ‘The Return of Voice TV (Again)’ .

Prateep said that Voice TV will air its news programmes as usual, incuding Wake Up News, Tonight Thailand, the Daily Dose and In Her View, known for their progressive and critical stand against the Thai junta.

The programmes, however, will not be run with the same critical vigour as before the NBTC ban, stated Prateep, adding that news analysis critical of the authorities will have to be excluded for the time being.

“Three years after of being forced off the air on 20 May 2014 [two days before the 2014 coup d’état], I as a News Programme Director of Voice TV, would like to send you the message as we have once again returned,” reads part of the statement.

“It is as if [we] fell asleep on 20 May 2014 (or actually 19 September 2006) and woke up again on 4 April 2017 when Thailand’s political landscape still remains the same,” wrote Prateep.

The NBTC announced the decision to suspend Voice TV for seven days starting on 28 March 2017.  It accused its programmes of being one-sided and misleading the public.

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 Thai Journalists Association (TJA) and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA) condemned the ban, pointing out that it 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 of the two media organisations.