Statement of the Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association on the World Press Freedom Day 3 May 2016 "Well-rounded accuracy is a guarantee for the freedom."
Article 4 of the Interim Constitution, put in place the post- military coup on 22 May 2014 protects the people's rights and liberty according to Thai political tradition, democratic system and international agreements. However, in practice, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has many times issued its orders and announcements that can be used to limit freedom of expression and people's rights to information. Those include the NCPO's orders number 97/2557, 103/2557 and the NCPO's chief's order number 3/2558 (Article 5) as well as the NCPO's order number 13/2559 which recently authorise military officers to be investigators. Moreover, the government's on-going attempt to push for the laws on digital economy and the amendment to the Computer Crime Act in particular, put people's right to free speech under a greater risk.
In addition, the government under the NCPO has also exercised its power that affected such rights in many ways. It has summoned members of media professionals for "attitude adjustment" and organised meetings with media representatives to make sure they strictly cooperate with the government. The situation of press freedom in Thailand has been gradually deteriorated. Thailand's press freedom ranking according to Reporters Without Borders has dropped from 130 in 2014 to 134 in 2015, and to 136 in 2016.
Meanwhile, the media reform proposal prepared by the National Reform Council has had no progress in the hands of the National Reform Steering Assembly.
Amid the expectation for national reform in many aspects, Thailand's freedom of the press has been significantly reduced to the level that can be called "gloomy."
However, true freedom of the press can be achieved only with cooperation of all parties involved.
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association propose:
1. The government and the NCPO quickly revoke any laws that limit or violate freedom of the press including NCPO's orders number 97/2557, 103/2557 and the NCPO's chief's order number 3/2558 (Article 5).
Safe space must be ensured to open for the people to express opinions useful and healthy for democratic society. This can also benefit the country's reputation. Normal laws, not these restrictive ones, should be used to take action against violating media.
It is extremely crucial to ensure freedom to present and exchange all-rounded accurate information, which is a key to solve political conflicts. Therefore, the government should neither monopolise the right to disseminate information nor control, interfere in media's works, or impose climate of fear in expression.
2. The National Reform Steering Assembly consider pushing for the media reform basing on the proposal by the National Reform Council. The policies and the laws should promote effective self-regulation for the media so that the media can do their work properly with responsibility and accountability. Moreover, the laws should prevent intervention in the work of the media by authorities or businesses. Equally important, the government must media literacy among the people.
On development of the laws, over the past nine years, the enforcement of the Computer Crime Act has affected people's freedom of expression for online users. The National Reform Council, therefore, should be careful in deliberating the laws.
Besides, as the Act on Organization Assigning Frequency Waves and Supervising Broadcasting and Telecommunications Business Operations is being considered, the allocation of frequencies must be in the manner that generates public interest. The National BTC must be independent both in administration and operation. The principles of transparency and fairness, justice and fair representativeness must be kept in mind in selecting members of the new NBCT Board.
3. Journalists, media professionals and media businesses be aware of disseminating well-rounded accurate information as it is a guarantee for freedom of expression. The media personnel's capacity should be developed so that they can professionally and ethically do their jobs without violation of human dignity. Furthermore, all should support the media's effective self-regulation mechanism to uphold and enhance public's trust in the media.
4. Each and every individual share only verified and well-rounded information. All should be aware that any dissemination of false information can damage other people and also put them at risk of legal action.
However, all the people should actively take part in promoting the right free flow of information. They should react in case the media violates or is violated media to help promote professional and ethical media in Thai society.
The Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association hope that this year's World Press Freedom Day can mark another step towards a society where the media provides well-rounded accurate information and ensured freedom of the press and freedom of the people.
Thai Journalists Association Thai Broadcast Journalists Association on the World Press Freedom Day
3 May 2016