On this World Media Press Freedom Day, the professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand stands by its colleagues in Thailand's domestic media as they struggle to maintain professional standards and editorial independence in particularly challenging times.
The National Reform Steering Assembly's draft Bill on the Protection of Media Rights lumps all 'media' together indiscriminately and misguidedly.
Great caution should be exercised over any measures that damage Thailand's already fragile traditional media. Newspapers in particular are financially and operationally threatened as never before, and recent attempts to branch into digital television have often been disastrous.
The Public Relations Department already issues press cards to help recognized media organizations carry out their work. Overworked and underpaid journalists do not need any further official oversight, particularly by individuals lacking relevant media experience.
Thailand also has in place some of the most onerous, controversial, and vengeful defamation laws in the world. These are designed to instill fear and deter legitimate investigation rather than deliver justice.
Official efforts to improve the overall media situation would be much better channeled into educating the public about the perils of fake news, bogus websites, online trolls, and highly irresponsible and genuinely defamatory social media activities that are widespread and evidently beyond regulation.
The Thai public should certainly demand responsibility and accuracy from all parts of the media, and effective peer review can do much to bring this about. Journalists should meanwhile be allowed to get on with their work without interference or intimidation. There is no profession on the planet more open to public scrutiny and criticism.