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Special Report

Censoring media unconstitutional, counter-productive

MEDIA SOURCES claim that the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) - headed by Chalerm Yoobamrung - is planning to censor anti-government media outlets, particularly the BlueSky TV station.

The rumoured threat follows the state of emergency already imposed in Bangkok, Nonthaburi and parts of nearby provinces Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan.

Takerng Somsup, director of BlueSky TV, said if CMPO wished to shut down the station, it must send a request to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) first.

Takerng said he's prepared to take a vacation if that occurs, but added that such a move would not succeed in blocking broadcasts from the protest sites of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

He said there exists a TV pool system among five TV stations including T News, Rangsit University TV, 13 Siam Thai, FM TV and BlueSky. Many Internet sites are also relaying video broadcasts from PDRC stages.

Takerng warned that such a shutdown would backfire and attract more protesters to the sites, as they would become "thirsty" for news. He added that caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra already had state-run channels at her disposal to broadcast her government's views. "We're not doing anything illegal," said Takerng.

Mana Treelayapewat, a lecturer in mass communications at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said no impartial media organisations remain today in Thailand, but all operators should strive to be fair.

He said it appeared that state-controlled media were reporting news about candlelight vigils in support of elections more frequently than necessary and some newspaper groups might be taking an oeder from the government to support them.

Mana said it would be "inappropriate" for the government to shut down opposition media, and any content considered libellous should be dealt with through libel law.

Pradit Ruangdit, president of the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), said Article 45 of the Constitution protects press freedom and warned the government not to be selective in cracking down on media on just one side. "The media are already careful [about reporting]," said Pradit.

Wisuth Komwatcharapong, president of the Thai Broadcasting Journalists Association (TBJA) said the time has passed for governments to censor opposition media, as it was no longer acceptable.

He said the pro-government Asia Update TV was espousing only one point of view and so the government should accept the existence of partisan media. The media associations have also met and issued a joint statement expressing concern about possible censorship by the government.




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