Media outcry mounts as bill goes forward

Media outcry mounts as bill goes forward

4 panel members to resign in protest

ACM Kanit Suwannate indicated Wednesday nothing will stop him from passing his bill to control the media.
ACM Kanit Suwannate indicated Wednesday nothing will stop him from passing his bill to control the media.

As the National Reform Steering Assembly's media reform panel proposes its draft on the media regulating bill to the assembly's whip Thursday, media outlets are stepping up their opposition to the bill.

Confederation of Thai Journalists president Thepchai Yong, in his capacity as chairman of the Media Reform Working Group, will submit a letter to NRSA vice-chairman Alongkorn Ponlaboot Thursday objecting to the NRSA media reform panel's draft "bill on rights protection, ethical promotion and standards of media professionals".

Meanwhile, four members of the NRSA panel on media reform will submit their resignations to protest against proposed measures to control the media.

They are Suwanna Sombatraksasuk, Chakkrit Permpool, Pradit Ruangdit and Amornrat Mahitthirook.

All of them have worked in the media for many years.

The Thai Journalists Association and its allies plan to launch a campaign Thursday which aims to help people, especially online users, understand the negative impacts of the bill if it is passed.

The group asked media and democracy defenders to change their profile pictures on social media to the campaign's picture at 9.09 a.m.

The picture features a chained dove and a message demanding an end to media suppression.

The group plans to organise a public forum on the issue. Both critics and advocates of the bill will have a platform for open debate.

Mr Chakkrit, a former chairman of the National Press Council of Thailand, said the draft law proposed by the NRSA's media reform panel had been changed from what was left by the defunct National Reform Committee (NRC).

The NRSA was supposed to finish the draft started by the NRC, whose sub-committee spent a year studying and gathering comments from stakeholders including academics and the civic sector, he said.

"[The NRC's version of] the draft media bill supported the work of the media and promoted freedom of the press. But after the NRSA media reform panel took over the draft, the essence of the bill was changed," he said.

The NRSA media reform panel is led by ACM Kanit Suwannate.

Mr Chakkrit said "unacceptable points" included authorising a national media council to issue and revoke licences for all media professionals.

"This kind of thing exists only under dictatorship governments. This is against the new constitution backed by the referendum that ensures media freedom and people's freedom of expression," he said.

The second unacceptable point was letting four permanent secretaries of various ministries join the national media council.

This can allow political interference in the media, he said.

"The media opposing this bill [are not doing it] to protect themselves. This bill is limiting people's rights to information. It will affect the people in the end," Mr Chakkrit said.

ACM Kanit said Wednesday he had learned about the resignation plan of Mr Chakkrit and the three other members from the media. If it was true, he would talk to the four first, he said.

ACM Kanit insisted on pushing the draft forward, but media organisations can still submit a proposal to the NRSA and let it decide during a meeting scheduled for next week.

He was willing to listen to feedback from the NRSA to improve his proposal before it goes to the government for a decision, he said.


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