Censorship gone wrong

Censorship gone wrong

The 'Tonight Thailand' show on Voice TV was banned for 15 days by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) after a discussion that mentioned the French revolution. (Photo via Voice TV)
The 'Tonight Thailand' show on Voice TV was banned for 15 days by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) after a discussion that mentioned the French revolution. (Photo via Voice TV)

The recent suspension of two of the evening shows on Voice TV could be a textbook example for journalism and political science students of the future. It was a trifecta of errors. The wrong censors made the wrong programming ban for the wrong reasons. The station, known to have strong red shirt and Pheu Thai sympathy, lost an evening talk show for two weeks. But the form and result of the two-week shutdown of the TonightThailand programme goes well past the inevitable court case over the order.

The first problem is the actual censor. Shortly after he seized power in 2014, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha placed all broadcasting censorship powers in the hands of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and its secretary-general Takorn Tantasith. This quite properly drew strong criticism at the time. The NBTC's duty is to regulate physical control of the airwaves. Except by Section 44 order, it has no built-in ability to monitor, let alone control, content.

Every constitution since 1997, including under the Prayut government, has laid out the systems of two basic and intertwined freedoms. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are not absolute. But for authorities to abridge or end these freedoms in any given case, authorities must reasonably show that an alleged offender has violated or endangered national security, public order including morals, or health.

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