Media groups renew 'control' bill battle

Media groups renew 'control' bill battle

The Thai Journalists Association has called a meeting for Sunday on a pending bill to give government a direct hand in setting media's 'professional standards'.
The Thai Journalists Association has called a meeting for Sunday on a pending bill to give government a direct hand in setting media's 'professional standards'.

Media organisations will step up efforts to oppose a bill governing rights protection, ethical promotion and professional standards of media professionals with the National Reform Steering Assembly.

This Sunday, several media groups will announce their stance at the Thai Journalists Association, TJA president Wanchai Wongmeechai said.

"The NRSA's draft law can lead to conditions that allow interference in the media's work," Mr Wanchai said.

"This is not media reform but an attempt to control the media."

Last December, six professional media organisations released an open letter opposing the NRSA's draft in which the permanent secretaries of four ministries have been included as members of the national media council.

The bill also requires every media professional to have a licence. These specifications in the long run could allow political intervention and affect the independence of the media, Mr Wanchai said.

The six media organisations are the National Press Council, the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand, the TJA, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, the Online News Providers Association, and the Thailand Cable TV Association.

The NRSA media reform steering committee, led by ACM Kanit Suwannate, had discussed the bill with media organisations many times. ACM Kanit insisted on his committee's draft, TJA vice-president Chairith Yonpiam said.

Meanwhile, a source from the committee, who asked not to be named, said the NRSA has scheduled a meeting to consider the bill on Jan 30.

Chairman of the National Press Council of Thailand Chavarong Limpattamapanee said: "We do not refuse all regulations governing the media. But the NRSA's version of the draft law is for controlling the media, not for the protection of people's rights as claimed. We proposed an alternative version but it was not considered."

Mr Chavarong said other laws are in place to regulate the media and prevent them from violating people's rights.

Mr Wanchai said the Confederation of Thai Journalists, which comprises 10 media organisations, including the TJA, will discuss the issue tomorrow, and again submit a letter to the NRSA.

In their earlier open letter to the NRSA, the organisations said the NRSA's version was not based on the principles of the protection of media freedom but on the principles of controlling the media using state powers to interfere in the media's work.

They said it was not in line with the principles of the draft constitution that has passed the referendum, which aims at allowing media self-regulation which is free from state intervention.

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