Govt media bill accused of 'hidden agenda'

Govt media bill accused of 'hidden agenda'

NCPO-era draft, 'a tool for control'

Both government and opposition MPs have slammed a bill aimed at promoting media ethics and professional standards, saying the bill is outdated and the government should withdraw it.

During a joint sitting of MPs and senators on Tuesday, Pheu Thai Party MP for Bangkok, Jirayu Huangsap, said that the bill was drawn up by the now-defunct National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) about six to seven years ago.

The NRSA was established by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who was then the leader of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

"The bill was intended by the NCPO to control the media. Therefore, the origin of the bill was illegitimate.

"Now is not the time to propose such a bill. The bill has a hidden agenda, and the media does not trust it," Mr Jirayu said.

"It must be pulled out of parliament, and a referendum should be held for people to decide," he added.

Siripong Angkhasakulkiat, a Bhumjaithai Party MP for Si Sa Ket, also said the bill was drawn up several years ago before some apps such as Tiktok had even come into existence.

"The bill is outdated, and the government should withdraw it," Mr Siripong said.

After three hours of debate, the lawmakers could not vote on the bill due to a lack of quorum, forcing the meeting to be cancelled on Tuesday.

The thrust of the bill, which was proposed by the cabinet for its first reading in parliament, is that a national council of media professionals would be established for the "self-regulation" of media organisations in line with the law and international standards on media ethics.

Under the bill, people working at state-run media organisations can refuse to carry out instructions from bosses that violate media ethics without being fearful of punishment for insubordination.

Senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn has said he supports the bill, adding it was vetted by senior media members and the Council of State, which is the government's legal advisory body.

Moreover, the bill does not contain content that allows the government to control the media, he said.

However, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA) issued a statement on Monday opposing the bill, saying the cabinet tabled the bill to parliament urgently without hearing feedback from concerned parties, particularly members of the media.

The TBJA disagreed with the proposal to establish the media council, saying it would most likely restrict media freedom.

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