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Thailand: The Revocation of License to Broadcast of Peace TV

Key Details

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) revoked the license for broadcasting of Peace TV on April 27, 2015. The channel is an affiliated with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) or simply known as the “red shirts”.

Previously, the channel was suspended the station’s license for seven days from April 10 – 17, 2015. The chairman of the Broadcasting Board, Colonel Nathee Sakulrat said that the commission has warned the station on several occasions on its provocative content which also incited disobedience and caused public misunderstanding. He claimed that the commission warned Peace TV since October 2014 to comply with the law and follow the requirements which states that the content must not create confusion, instigate unrest, or deepen conflicts and divisions among people. [1] The station allegedly defied the warnings which caused the suspension on its operating license for seven days.

On May 4, 2015 Weng Tojirakarn, one of the UDD prominent leaders, submitted a letter to the Office of High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR) at the UN regional office on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue. [2] He also petitioned the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on May 7, 2015. The letter was presented to Niran Pitakwatchara, the NHRC commissioner.

“If today we are not able to listen to different opinions, then it will be difficult to achieve our aim of moving towards democracy, to build reform and [fulfill] expectations that a new constitution will lead to reconciliation among all parties.” said Niran.[3]

Press freedom in Thailand has been severely restricted since the launch of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on May 22, 2014. The NCPO has issued two of its announcements that directly affect the media freedom in the country which are the Announcements No. 14/2557 and No. 18/2557.

The Announcement No. 14/2557 prohibits any print medium, radio or television program, editor, program host or news medium from interviewing or seeking comments from bureaucrats or academics who are no longer in their active positions, or from those who used to work with court, the judiciary system or independent agencies “in a manner that may create more conflict, distortion or lead to confusion in the society, or that may lead to violence.” Any person who violates provisions in this announcement will be prosecuted under the law, and their publication or program will be suspended immediately.

The Announcement No. 18/ 2557 states that all media, both owned by state and private companies, including electronic media and social media, shall refrain from presenting the following information:

  1. Statement that is false, or that could defame or create hatred to the monarchy, the heir-apparent, or any member of the royal family;
  2. Information that is detrimental to national security, including those that are defamatory to other people;
  3. Criticizing the work of the National Council for Peace and Order, its officials or related persons;
  4. Audio or visual information or video that is confidential information of state agencies;
  5. Information that could lead to confusion, could provoke conflict, or could cause social divide in the Kingdom;
  6. Persuasion for any grouping that leads to any resistance to officials or persons related to the National Council for Peace and Order;
  7. Threat to harm any person that could lead to panic or fear among the public.

Basically, the announcements were made with an aim to prohibit Thai media from reporting anything or interviewing anyone that is critical of the NCPO. The announcements also aim that the Thai media should report what the NCPO said only.

On July 18, 2014 the announcements were repealed by the issue of the Announcement No. 97/2557. However, the content of the announcements were actually combined into one in the Announcement No. 97/2557. The authorities can shut down any media, whether print, television, radio, or online if they view that it meets the seven criteria stated above.

The Announcement No. 103/2557 was made two days after the No. 97/2557 was launched as the Thai Journalist Association (TJA) published a statement regarding their concerns on the prohibition of any criticism of the NCPO and its officials and the suspension. The statement also states that the NCPO did not clearly explain whether there will be any warning before the suspension or not.

“It is not clear it there will be any warnings, any steps or any approaches in determining the offense …. If there is an abuse of power and there is no check and balance process, it is more likely that this will create a bad impact” said Pradit Ruangdit, former chairman of the TJA [4]

The Announcement No. 103/2557 is a revision of the No. 97/2557. According to the revision, “the ban will now only apply to criticism of the NCPO’s operations that have the dishonest intention to damage the credibility of the NCPO with false information.”  The revision also revised the punishment. Instead of the immediate shutdown, there will be an internal “ethics inquiry” performed on the erring media agencies by their own press associations.[5]

Out of 180 countries, Thailand is ranked #134 by the Reporters Without Borders in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index.The rank was fallen from #130 in 2014.[6]

On World Press Freedom Day this year, May 3 2015, four professional organizations including TJA, Thai Broadcast Journalists Associations, National Press Council of Thailand, and News Broadcasting Council of Thailand issued a statement that demands the NCPO to respect press freedom and people’s rights to information. The four organizations asks the NCPO to revoke the Announcements No. 97/2557 and No. 103/2557. It also demands the NBTC to be free from any interference from the state power. [7]

Part of the issued statement states “This comes especially at a time of national reform in . Therefore, it is necessary that people from different groups have opportunities to submit their opinions and proposals on how they want to see the future of the country.”

Regarding the cancellation of the Peace TV’s license, the four organizations disagreed with the role of the NBTC. However, they expressed concerns over the political role of the station. [8]

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