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Journalists concerned about junta's move to clamp down

Order on Friday bans criticism of NCPO, plus stories on scholars, ex-officials, etc

The Thai Journalists Association (TJA) expressed concern yesterday at the ruling junta's order issued on Friday night barring all media from criticising its work.

The TJA warned that the order could lead to violations of people's right to be informed and would risk putting too much censorship power into the hands of the person in charge of censorship.

The association said many media organisations were already exercising restraint in order to ensure that their reports and analysis do not fan political conflict.

TJA said it was unclear what the effect would be if the military acted on its threat to shut down a media outlet if it fails to follow the order of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The association said it would hold a meeting next week to mete out a more concrete response to the junta's order, which was issued late on Friday night.

The NCPO warned media organisations they would face immediate bans and legal action if they disseminate prohibited content.

NCPO spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvari said yesterday that the latest announcement just combined some previous ones involving the mass media. He said this new announcement also covered people other than the media.

Friday's announcement - the junta's 97th overall - prohibits criticism of its operations, staff and related people. It covers print, broadcast, electronic and online media.

The NCPO also prohibited the running of stories on scholars, former government officials and former employees of the courts, judicial offices and independent organisations that may cause or worsen conflicts, distort information, confuse society or lead to the use of violence.

The dissemination of false information and state secrets in any form is prohibited, as is insulting the monarchy or defaming any person, threatening national security and threatening to use violence that could cause fear. Mobilising people for an anti-NCPO activity is also banned.

If the NPCO issues information, the media must disseminate it.

'Will outlets get warning first?'

Governors, Interior Ministry officials and provincial police chiefs have been told to stop any political assembly or activity against the NCPO.

TJA president Pradit Ruangdit said an initial meeting held yesterday saw members express concern about the NCPO order. He said the media was bound to adhere to truthful, accurate and complete reporting and anything that deviated from that could already be dealt with through existing laws.

Pradit also asked where the line could be drawn when it comes to deciding what constitutes criticism of the military junta's work and warned of the risk of power concentration that enables rights to information to be suspended.

Section 5 of the order stated that violators could face immediate media shutdown and Pradit asked if outlets would be warned first before such a penalty was meted out. He also said there was no process that could scrutinise the exercise of power by the NCPO and warned that it may lead to more adverse effects than good.


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