Terminate media bill to protect democracy: consumer organisations

After approval of the junta’s controversial media bill by the National Reform Council (NRC), three consumer rights organisations have demanded that the bill be scrapped to protect Thailand’s democratic values.
 
On 2 May 2017, a network of consumer rights organisations consisting of the Foundation for Consumers, the Confederation of Consumer Organisations and the Independent Committee for Consumer Protection issued a statement denouncing the Protection of Media Rights and Freedom, Ethics and Professional Standards Bill.
 
The network argues that the bill does not aim to protect media freedom as it tries to claim, but instead threatens it. The reservation of two seats for government officials on the National Professional Media Council indicates that those who drafted the bill do not sincerely want to protect media freedom.
 
“The deprivation of media freedom is the deprivation of the people’s right to the freedom of access to information which is protected under the 2017 constitution. These two freedoms are fundamental principles that must be protected in a democratic society,” reads the statement.
 
The statement suggests that government should take the model of media regulation in foreign countries where the media and civil society work together with the government acting merely as a facilitator.  
 
The consumer network also condemns the decision of the NRC to approve the law and urges the immediate termination of the bill.
 
“[The network] therefore has three requests: 1) immediately terminate the bill; 2) draft a new bill where every sector can participate without regulation by the government or government representatives; 3) strengthen people’s capacity to become media literate citizens and protect freedom of information,” reads the statement 
 
The junta’s NRC gave a green light to the bill on 1 May and submitted the draft to the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly for final approval.
 
The bill would establish a National Professional Media Council consisting of at least two government officials out of 15 members. The council will have the authority to approve or revoke media licences, with unlicensed media facing fines.
 
The bill states that all people profiting from the production of media are subject to its regulations, raising public concerns that popular websites, Facebook pages and YouTube channels will also require licences.     
 
 
NRC passed the bill with 141 votes in favour, 13 against and 17 abstentions (Photo from Matichon)
 

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