Media to be free but monitored to prevent further conflict, NCPO says

national June 28, 2014 00:00

By Jintana Panyaarvudh,

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General meets media chiefs, says they will contact editors next time they disagree with reports

The junta insisted yesterday that press freedom would be maintained, but said it was necessary to monitor the media because the country was in a “special” situation. 
At a meeting at the Army Club with more than 40 editors and executives from print and broadcast media, National Council for Peace and Order secretary-general General Udomdej Sitabutr said the NCPO needed to control the media at the moment to prevent further chaos.
“We did not intend to restrict media freedom but want to encourage each other,” Udomdej said. 
He shed more light on a recently set up panel to monitor the media, saying the panel would continue the task that the NCPO had done since the May 22 power seizure.
Udomdej said the NCPO would consider revoking an order aimed at preventing negative comments about the junta from appearing in the media when the time was appropriate.
Referring to fugitive former Pheu Thai party chief Charupong Ruangsuwan’s anti-coup movement overseas, Udomdej said the media would be allowed to present the movement if it used good judgement to prevent further conflict from being caused. 
On Wednesday, military officers walked into editorial rooms of a Thai newspaper to show their disapproval at a report carried by the paper on Charupong’s Free Thai Organisa-tion. 
Udomdej said the next time the NCPO would contact editors, if there was a problem.
He said Charupong’s organisation would not affect the NCPO but he did not want the movement to get more support. 
Udomdej said “colour-coded” television stations like the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Asia Update and BlueSky, which anti-Thaksin protesters have a strong affiliation for, would have to wait until the situation becomes more stable before being allowed to resume broadcasts. 
Meanwhile, Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew, deputy chief of the NCPO, gave a guarantee yesterday that the junta would not disturb press freedom, saying the new committee was set up to merely monitor the media.
Representatives of the Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association met Adul, who chairs the committee, to express their concerns.
The two groups urged the junta to respect people’s right to know what is happening and to have media freedom. 
They said the junta should have clear guidelines for officials attached to many media organisations. 
Adul said his committee would monitor the media and the NCPO would issue warnings if the committee found irregularities in reports.
Asked if the junta would send any more officials into editorial rooms, Adul said there was no policy to do so.
Representatives of the associations also asked Adul to explain why veteran journalist and Matichon group owner Khanchai Boonpan was summoned by the junta despite it being aware of his health issues. Adul said it was a mistake and it had been corrected.
Khanchai’s nephew informed the junta that he could not comply due to ill health. The junta issued a warrant to prosecute him and later revoked the warrant with an unclear explanation.

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