Thai media protest proposed licenses for journalists

Thai media protest proposed licenses for journalists

BANGKOK — Thai media organizations are protesting a bill that would require journalists to be licensed and would establish a council that can penalize news outlets for violating professional standards.

The bill was submitted Thursday to a military-appointed body tasked with reforming the Thai government.

Journalists delivered a protest letter to the body and four former journalists resigned from the group that authored the bill.

“It will bring Thailand back to the dark ages, when state power was in control of the media,” says Thepchai Yong, president of the Confederation of Thai Journalists.

The government says the legislation is needed to clean up corruption and prevent false reporting. But critics say it is a way for officials to avoid scrutiny.

The Thai press is already kept on a leash. Self-censorship is widespread due to Thailand’s draconian lese majeste laws, under which insulting the monarchy can land someone up to 15 years in jail. Last July, the ruling junta gave regulators the power to shut down broadcasters deemed a threat to national security, and in December the junta passed a cybercrime act that strengthens online censorship.

The bill was given to the National Reform Steering Assembly, the body that heads various subcommittees that are tasked with enacting political reform by Thailand’s military junta, including the media.

Thepchai delivered the protest letter to the steering assembly, while the four former reporters resigned because they said their views were ignored.

Journalists said it was unacceptable that the bill would require individual reporters to be vetted and licensed by the government.

“This is unprecedented. Journalists don’t need practicing licenses,” said Thepchai. “By licensing the media, it means you have direct control over them.”

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha has said that all professions need to be trained and standardized, and that journalists were no exception. Coauthors of the bill say licenses are necessary to deter false reporting and corruption.

“Be a good man and good woman, and tell the truth… don’t do this grey business,” said Kanit Suwannate, air chief marshal and chairman of the committee that proposed the bill. “(Misreporting) has occurred, but I cannot tell you the evidence, because they try to hide the way they run the business.”

The bill will be debated by the steering assembly. Then it must be approved by the Thai cabinet and parliament before becoming law.

The proposed 13-member media ethics committee would have four seats reserved for government officials, and would set standards and “codes of conduct,” and would have the power to fine and confiscate the licenses of broadcasters and newspapers that violated them.

Journalists say because of the nature of Thai politics, the government appointees would be able to put pressure on other council members.

Dake Kang, The Associated Press

Just Posted

JoeAnna’s House fundraising campaign reaches $4.5 million

Offering ‘home away from home’ for families of KGH patients

2014 murder case finally goes to trial

Steven Randy Pirko was charged with second-degree murder in 2016

Flood recovery work set to begin in Kelowna

The first phase of $5 million dollar flood recovery plan for Upper Vernon Creek will begin on Monday

Kelowna exhibition showcases nature of Haida Gwaii

The Kelowna Art Gallery is holding a reception for Gwaii Haanas – Islands and Sacred Sites Friday

Accused in Kelowna murder heads to court

Chad Alphonse is accused of killing Waylon Percy Junior Jackson, back in 2016

Canadian junior captain returns to Rockets lineup

Dillon Dube will be back in Kelowna’s lineup Wednesday night after world juniors and bout of flu

Winter storm coming to B.C. this weekend

The bets are on as to how much snow the province will actually get in the coming days

Public asked to report bat sightings

White nose syndrome leads to bats flying in winter or death.

B.C. civil rights group files complaint about RCMP arrest of man who later died

Dale Culver, a 35-year-old Indigenous man was arrested in Prince George last July

Lawyer says former B.C. government aide ‘barely guilty’ in ethnic vote scandal

Brian Bonney pleaded guilty to a breach of trust charge

Song penned for Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Penticton

Curling Time released to celebrate Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Penticton

Quite a few tears as homemade quilts distributed to residents of Ashcroft Reserve, Boston Flats affected by last summer’s fire

Quilters in B.C. and Alberta worked through the summer and fall to create more than 100 quilts.

Island Health: No need for alarm in wake of Victoria needle-prick incidents

Three incidents in a week prompts meeting between health authority, city service providers

B.C. coast loggers celebrate history, hope for improvement

Truck Loggers Association awaits B.C. NDP government’s new direction

Most Read