The Media and Information Technology Reform Committee met yesterday to review all recommendations sent to it after the deliberation to revise the draft law and its report before forwarding them to the government through the NRC chairman.
Earlier, media groups voiced opposition to the unclear structure and authority of the proposed national professional media council as well as its sources of financing.
The media organisations in the Media Reform Working Group comprise the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), the National Press Council of Thailand, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA), and the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand.
Pradit revealed after the three-hour meeting that changes would cover five key controversial points.
The committee agreed the council’s sources of financing would derive from the Thai Public Broadcasting Service’s annual budget – the leftover balance from the whole year’s usage due to be returned to the government – and the research fund of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.
The council’s board members would comprise elected members from the profession, plus selected prominent figures.
Two new commissions would be set up – one a media ethics regulation commission, and the other a civil-based media watch commission.
The first commission, under the council, would have authority to take complaints for consideration, to deliberate, and give judgement on cases. The second would take complaints from people claiming their rights had been violated by the media and forwarded to the media ethics commission.
The committee also agreed to drop the issuing of a professional licence and change it to issuance of a media identity card.
Pradit said the committee dropped listing the amounts of money taken from the source, but rather wrote a provision to leave room for interpretation.
Pradit said the rest of the draft remained pretty much the same, but added that the committee was also concerned about the sources of financing and issuance of a licence. The members repeatedly went back and forth on these two issues even before other organisations opposed them.
Before the meeting, representatives of editors’ networks from the Northeast went to the Parliament to read a statement supporting the draft law as well as the establishment of the professional media council. At the same time, they opposed statements earlier issued by the four major media organisations, claiming they did not completely represent media members as they were mostly based on Bangkok. The group asked for an increase in the number of seats on the proposed council from one to three.
Asked about such a proposal, Pradit responded that this had not been stipulated clearly in the draft. It would depend on the council members to vote to take representatives from upcountry.
After the final review, the committee forwarded the draft law and the report to NRC chairman Thienchay Kiranandana. Pradit said the chairman would then pass the draft law on to the Cabinet for implementation.
Banyong Suwanpong, the ethics committee member of the TJA and TBJA, said a law to help regulate the media was necessary because the media had not been successful in regulating themselves.
Still, he was worried to what the extent the law should be applied as it could undermine press freedom. So he suggested that the reformers figure out this point carefully.
Thitinan Boonpap, a media professor from Dhurakij Pundit University, also voiced concern, saying the draft bill still had a loophole regarding media safety and work security.
Thitinan said the committee should listen more to media professionals before moving forward. He said the committee was working without looking at any case studies. If the law were passed, it would be too difficult to make any changes afterwards, he said.