NBTC asked to ban broadcasting of suspects' images

NBTC asked to ban broadcasting of suspects' images

Suspects trying to hide their faces at a police news briefing is a common sight but this may end with the prime minister's new order. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Suspects trying to hide their faces at a police news briefing is a common sight but this may end with the prime minister's new order. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) enforce a prohibition on TV news broadcasts showing criminal suspects because it is a violation of civil rights, said deputy permanent secretary for justice Tawatchai Thaikiew.

The move followed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's order prohibiting officials from parading suspects in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The NBTC is the official broadcast censor, with full authority to ban radio, TV and wireless broadcasts, and to shut down stations without notice.

Mr Tawatchai said once brought to a news briefing, the suspects, as well as their families, would suffer from the damage to their reputation after their images appeared on the front pages of newspapers, although the cases against them might later be dismissed by the court.

He did not explain how broadcasters could show suspects if security forces are banned from bringing suspects to their briefings.

Government agencies which have treated suspects this way include the army, Royal Thai Police, Department of Special Investigation, Office of Narcotics Control Board and Customs Department, he noted.

Mr Tawatchai, citing academic research, said the parading of suspects could cause unfavourable effects on them in the long run.

Police have said the purpose of the briefings is to keep the public informed of the progress of their investigations and for it to serve as a deterrent for future crimes. The media also want fresh stories and pictures for their news.

On police's claim that they had done so with the consent from the suspects, Mr Tawatchai doubted whether it was possible since no one would want to be shamed that way.

Mr Tawatchai also cited a case in Spain where a suspect filed a lawsuit against the media after he was acquitted by the court. He claimed the media, including Google, were ordered to remove his images from their content over the past 10 years.

Of note, he said the prime minister's order did not prohibit authorities from publicising their work, only from parading the suspects.

However, violators of the order are subject to only disciplinary action and will not be charged with neglect of duty under Section 157 of the Criminal Code.

In response to the prime minister's order, the Justice Ministry's Rights and Liberties Protection Department would send a letter to the NBTC, "asking" the censors to issue a regulation to prohibit all TV stations from showing the images of suspects in their news, Mr Tawatchai said.

While TV stations and all other broadcasters are under the supervision of the NBTC, print media including newspapers remain self-regulated by industry groups. Websites with hosts in Thailand are under the "supervision" of the Information and Communication Technology Ministry.


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