Media bodies propose alternative to new legally binding regulations

national September 13, 2016 01:00

By KASAMAKORN CHANWANPEN

THE NATION

MEDIA PROFESSIONAL associations resolved in a joint meeting yesterday to submit a letter to the chairman of the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) media reform committee opposing a draft bill on regulating the industry.



If passed into law, the media would be subject to various legally-binding mechanisms including a national media professional council, which they fear could lead to interference from political and business interests. 
The professional associations also said they would develop their own alternative version of regulatory measures for lawmakers to consider.
The bodies at the meeting included the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA), the National Press Council of Thailand (NPCT) and the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand (NBCT). 
“We agree in principle that there should be more effective media ethics regulation mechanisms in place, but we do not agree with the idea to establish them legally binding, especially the idea to set up a lawful national media professional council to regulate the media,” TBJA president Thepchai Yong, who is also chairman of the Working Group for Media Reform, said. 
“This could leave a loophole for political and business entities to interfere with the media’s work, which ultimately would affect the people’s right to information.” 
The associations plan to submit the letter to the committee chairman, Air Chief Marshal Kanit Suwannete, on Thursday to express their thoughts on the draft bill regarding media ethics, professional standards, rights and freedom. 
Thepchai said the associations would also inform the NRSA committee that a working group had been set up under the media associations to draft a new law on media regulation, which would be proposed to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) in the future. 
TJA president Wanchai Wanmeechai said after the two-hour meeting that the media organisations agreed they could accept regulation of the media on two levels. 
One was that the media organisations would be generally regulated by the professional associations, and the other that organisations would regulate their own reporters or personnel. But they could not accept the professional council because of possible interference from “outside forces”, Wanchai added. “So the bill that we will write will include mechanisms based on self-regulation while excluding the professional council.” 
The development came after Kanit’s committee earlier this month held a discussion over the draft bill, during which representatives from the media associations exchanged viewpoints regarding the draft. 
According to the draft, a media professional council should be established to oversee media practices and to encourage media organisations to adhere to standards and ethics written in the draft. 
Membership would be applied along with regulation via implementation of agreed standards and penalties. The council would be partially funded by the state, receiving at least Bt50 million each year from the finance ministry, as well as public donations.
While draft advocates argue that the bill would help to protect press freedom, the media associations are concerned that their independence, rights and freedom would be undermined by the professional council. 

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