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

VIDEO: Rubbing shoulders with country stars a dream for aspiring young Langley singer

One day soon, maybe, 10-year-old Mackenzie Hurtubise will sing at the Basics for Babies fundraiser.

Giants back in Langley hoping to continue winning streak

The G-Men defeated Royals in Victoria Saturday, the second triumph of the week over the same team.

PHOTOS: Langley City parents given relief from holiday chaos

A Timms Community Centre event Saturday offered a variety of activities for young children.

Langley’s assistant lacrosse captain tallies up five goals in Calgary loss

Stealth fell to Roughnecks, but hoping for comeback on Dec. 29 in New England.

LETTER: Not too late to protect the character of Brookswood

With election year coming, a letter writer suggests council be held accountable for re-development.

VIDEO: Recovering addict shares art and story to motivate others

A Langley City man spends time each day painting in McBurney Plaza.

Update: RCMP arrest domestic assault suspect west of Kamloops.

The RCMP Emergency Response Team made the arrest at around 4:30 p.m.

Owl found dead after eating rat poison leaves B.C. woman concerned

After finding the owl on her Surrey property, Christine Trozzo says the poison is a concern for kids

Change to CPP death benefit panned as insufficient to cover funeral costs

Funeral Services Association of Canada lobbied governments to raise the value to $3,580

B.C. woman brain injured in crash as a baby gets $1.1 million in damages

Trial heard the woman was 16 months old, being carried by her mother when they were both hit

Family Christmas fun at Aldergrove’s Loft Country farm

The Loft Country children’s horse camp in Aldergrove is celebrating Christmas in a new way this year

Court denies WestJet’s bid to toss out discrimination lawsuit of former worker

Mandalena Lewis is suing WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination

VIDEO: 3 months later, rescued sea lion released back into ocean

The young animal was found in Campbell River three months ago

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

Most Read