“Programming will return shortly”: international news media broadcasts censored?

Al Jazeera’s news broadcast on True Visions cable TV momentarily stopped on the morning of 8 March. It is currently not confirmed which story was cut.

At 9.42 on 8 March, it was reported that Al Jazeera’s news broadcast was cut off, leaving only a blank screen with the message: “Programming will return shortly.”

The BBC’s broadcast, also through True Visions, was also briefly cut both on 7 March and the morning of 8 March, and the same message was shown on the screen. Jonathan Head, BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent, tweeted “It’s sadly routine now. Thailand is preparing for an election, but the climate of military intolerance persists.”

A few social media users say that other foreign media channels, such as Australia Network and Bloomberg, also had their broadcasts cut off on 7 and 8 March.

It is currently uncertain which story has been cut. But it is speculated that it was most likely the report on the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart party. Wayne Hay, an Al Jazeera reporter, told Prachatai that they are aware of this happening, but were never officially informed by the television providers or the government as to why.  

This is not the first time the international news media have been censored. On 8-9 February, when the TRC Party nominated former princess Ubolratana Mahidol as their candidate for Prime Minister, the broadcasts from BBC and CNN were also blacked out. In 2016, a similar thing happened to both Al Jazeera and BBC. Following the death of King Bhumibol, Al Jazeera ran a report on censorship during the mourning period, which said that foreign media broadcasting through Thai cable networks had been censored. The report also said that students had been recruited to watch both Al Jazeera and BBC and to report content that needed to be cut out, and that True Visions said that they were only following state policy.