Stop Media Regulation, Stop Dominating People

3 May 2017

By: Jagkrit Permpool

Consultant and Ethics Committee, Thai Journalists Association


Significant Battle for Freedom of Thai Press


Media organizations and media professionals nationwide gathered on World Press Freedom Day this year at Thai Journalists Association joined by ambassadors and representatives from many countries such as the United States, Sweden, Australia, and Finland as observers. 


They came together to express their opposition to the Bill on the Protection and Promotion of Media Rights, Freedom, Ethics and Professional Standards which contains the content concerning the control of freedom of information, expression of opinion of the media and people contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand on the right to freedom of expression of the media and the public, as well as indicators of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).


This is the largest gathering of Thai press after the fight to abolish the law on deprivation of liberty from the media declared in the Notification of Administrative Reform Commission No. 42 (Por.Ror. 42) during the reign of Gen. Chatchai Choohavan.


“Stop media regulation, stop controlling the people” is based on the content on this bill, which is the significant proclamation on this World Press Freedom Day.  The meaning of this statement is to emphasize the fact that the government empowered the National Press Council which consisted of 2 government representatives pursuant to this bill to register, issue and revoke permits for media professionals.


Media professionals without the permit and organizations that accepts media professionals without the permit shall be liable to imprisonment of no more than 3 years or fine of no more than sixty thousand Baht or both.


Even though the commissioner agreed to take a step back, give up the power for issuing and revoking permits, abolish the imprisonment penalty against media professionals without the permit and organizations hiring those media professionals, there was still an attempt to issue the certificate which may be linked to the power of the members of the National Press Council.


While the government representatives still have the seat in the commission, the definition of media professional, which has been extended far beyond the press, remains.


This is a regression of liberty during the military government which will significantly affect creditability of Thailand, as well as having an impact on politics, society, investment and economy.


Reporters without Borders Organization ranked the world press freedom for year 2017, and it was found that Thailand slid 6 slots ranking as the 142nd with the score of 49.49, which is in the red group meaning the press in the country is in difficulties.


Earlier, the survey result of Freedom House of the United States of America for year 2016 shows that Thailand ranked as one of the countries “without freedom”, being at the 168th of 190 countries and the 8th of the ASEAN countries.


Being in a situation where freedom of the press is restricted or deprived, if it is not a socialist country, then there would only be a country governed by the authoritarian leader. In principle, the characteristic of authoritarian leaders is the attempt to eliminate political enemies or opposition groups in every way possible.


Authoritarian leaders are not likely to allow political groups of different opinion. The freedom of the public is restricted, for the people are seen as a means to create great power for authoritarian leaders. Finally, the mass media or information channels are controlled to be one-way presentation where the leader only presents his information and attitudes repeatedly as he deems only his approach is valid contrary to the guarantee of freedom to present news accurately and completely covering all aspects in society.


The regression index for the freedom of Thai press is not only shown by Reporters Without Borders Organization and the survey result of Freedom House, but the Bill drafted by the Thai government also indicates the regression of Thai press which is contrary to the UNESCO principles.


Determination of unnecessary legal restriction, provisions determining who is eligible to work in the media field or requirement that all correspondents obtain the permit or registration are the main indicators for media development of UNESCO. If this Bill regulating the media is taken into consideration, it is going to be a regression rather than a step forward.


It is certain that Thai press might not be able to ensure their absolute freedom in this situation. Even though they are careful and try to present accurate and well-rounded news and information, what is presented is always go against the authoritarian leader’s attitudes. In other words, the press freedom exists under the authoritarianism.


Although the movement to fight against the law regulating the media under the slogan “stop media regulation, stop dominating people” might not be able to change the content of this authoritative law, at least it shows that Freedom is the fundamental human right that every human being must cherish and fight for till the end.