Media groups rap Voice TV censorship

Media groups rap Voice TV censorship

Two media associations have called on the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to review its committee's order to black out Voice TV's broadcasts for seven days, saying it harms media freedom.

The call was made by the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA), which released a joint statement Tuesday.

They made the call a day after the NBTC board decided to punish Voice TV, which belongs to the Shinawatra family, for airing content that violated the NCPO's announcements Nos.97 and 103, and Section 97 of the NBTC Act more than 10 times last year.

The NBTC said the content was inappropriate and could lead to social divisions.

The associations said they oppose the committee's decision to suspend the channel's licence for seven days.

They said the suspension order could affect media employees who may have nothing to do with the TV content or were unaware of the anchors' actions.

If the committee had suspended particular programmes, the impact would be felt only by those producing the programmes, but the suspension of the channel's licence would have a larger impact, they said.

The NBTC is an independent agency which provides licences to the TV operators and regulates them.

If it uses its power carelessly, media freedom could suffer, they said.

The committee cited complaints from the media monitoring panel of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) in making its order, which suggested the committee was susceptible to allowing those in power to damage the agency's independence, they said.

The move will undermine the credibility of the NBTC and affect the freedom of its regulated media outlets, they said.

The committee's resolution also conflicts with both the 1997 and 2006 constitutions, which safeguard those in the media who deliver news or opinions in compliance with their career ethics.

The charters bar any orders which force the closure of media outlets to infringe on their freedom, according to the associations.

They said that in the case of Voice TV, any problematic programmes could be considered on a case-by-case basis and power should not have been used to suspend the TV licence.

Authorities also have the right to file police complaints against TV channels, if their broadcasts affect national security, infringe on people's privacy or defame them, they said.

Meanwhile, NCPO spokesman Winthai Suvaree insisted the temporary suspension of Voice TV's licence has nothing to do with the NCPO and the council did not request the NBTC to act on the matter.

"That is up to the NBTC to consider, which was made according to its own process," said Col Winthai, adding the suspension may have resulted because earlier warnings to the channel went unheeded.

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