New constitution to give govt more media censorship powers

New constitution to give govt more media censorship powers

Reporters cover news at Government House as the Constitution Drafting Committee plans to authorise the government to censor news reports during emergency situations. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)
Reporters cover news at Government House as the Constitution Drafting Committee plans to authorise the government to censor news reports during emergency situations. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)

The Constitution Drafting Committee plans to give the government greater powers to censor the media under the new constitution.

In addition to the ability to censor the press during times of war - a power granted in the 2007 constitution - the CDC now plans to give the state the ability to block news during political crises and other "unusual situations", such as during the mass street protests that lead to 2014's military coup.

CDC spokesman Udom Rathamarit said on Tuesday that the committee agreed that the government should have such censorship powers following the imposition of an emergency decree or under martial law.

"When the country is facing an abnormal situation, the mass media should be cooperative. Otherwise, it can be difficult to set rules and disorder can break out," Mr Udorn said. "In normal times, we protect (the media's) work."

Acknowledging the potential for abuse of the new censorship powers, the CDC spokesman said the panel should set good criteria to ensure that doesn't happen.

The CDC based its decision on the political demonstrations of 2013 and 2014, which some panellists believe had resulted partly from media abuse. They claim some news outlets instigated protestors and that media organisations failed to self-police, he said.

Several large newspapers quit the National Press Council of Thailand when the council warned them about their coverage, Mr Udom said.

The new constitution would also require the government to publicise its public-relations spending with the media so the public could determine if authorities were "buying" press coverage, Mr Udom said.


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