POMC urged to review curbs on media

national May 22, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

Four media organisations yesterday issued a joint statement asking the Peace and Order Maintaining Command (POMC) to review those of its orders that are deemed to violate media rights and press freedom.

The statement was issued by the Thai Journalists Association, the National Press Council of Thailand, the Broadcast Journalists Association and the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand.

The statement said POMC’s order numbers 3, 6,7,8, 9/2014 adversely affected the freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 45 of the Constitution, especially numbers 6 and 7, which seek cooperation to suspend the operation of 14 satellite-television stations and community radio stations that do not have an operating licence until an order for change is imposed.

The media bodies cited the third paragraph of Article 45 of the charter, which stipulates that the closure of newspapers and other media to restrict press freedom is not permitted. The statement also said that although some satellite-TV stations and community radio stations had been used as political tools by disseminating hate speech, and had used their liberty irresponsibly in a way that could instigate violence, the POMC should seek cooperation from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to ensure the media strictly followed the law and used their freedom of expression in responsible ways.

“We urge the POMC to exercise discretion before suspending media that it believes could intensify conflicts, distort the facts or confuse the public, since the POMC’s orders are regarded as a severe deprivation of media freedom,” it stated.

The group also urged the cancellation of Order No 9, which bans the media from inviting people to give interviews or expressing an opinion.

It reasoned that media editors must be allowed to exercise their judgement in inviting people for interviews or offering opinions, as long as they do not worsen the conflict or lead to violence.

They also demanded that the POMC declare an intention to support and not obstruct the media from carrying out their duty in providing accurate and well-rounded coverage, and to respect freedom of expression in online media. The group also urged media professionals to carry out their duty ethically and responsibly.

Meanwhile, new digital free-to-air Voice TV, owned by the son of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, filed an appeal yesterday with the Army chief against the order for the TV station to suspend its broadcasts.

The appeal said Voice TV had been presenting facts straightforwardly, and without distorting information in order to incite unrest.

The petition asked the Army chief to allow the station to resume telecasts as soon as possible, because it had sponsors that had bought its airtime.

Supinya Klangnarong, a member of the NBTC, opposed the order to shut down satellite-TV stations, saying television or radio stations supervised by the NBTC were under the protection of the Constitution.

“To empower the Army absolutely to shut down media could be deemed as intervention in freedom, as covered by Article 45 of the charter. Exercising power needs checks and balances, no matter who uses it,” Supinya, who refused to show up and report to the POMC as ordered, wrote on her Facebook page on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the NBTC yesterday met with Internet service providers to seek their collaboration in ensuring online content is in compliance with martial law.

A POMC order seeks cooperation from social networks to monitor content and stop messages deemed as insulting to the monarchy, or with provocative or false messages. The Information and Communications Technology Ministry is tasked with taking a lead role in this mission.

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