2016 was a year of "government's interference and the media's depression," the Thai Journalists Association recalled the media situation in Thailand for the past year.
In a brief report launched on Friday December 30, the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) said the media situation in Thailand continued to be obscure. Among the constraints were the special power and the orders of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) as well as the Prime Minister's negative attitude towards the media's work.
The government is trying to interfere and control the media in many ways claiming the "media reform". Recently, the media reform steering committee of the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) deliberated the draft bill on the rights protection, ethical promotion and professional standards of media professionals.
Six media organizations including the National Press Council, the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand, the Thai Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, the Online News Providers Association and the Thailand Cable TV Association opposed the version of the draft bill as it might allow intervention from politicians or government officials through the members of the so-called national media council. The draft assigned the permanent-secretary of four ministries as well as four representatives selected by the government to sit on the 13-member committee. Such an idea can be opposing to the spirit of the Constitution which has passed the national referendum and guaranteed the freedom of the press as well as the honest expression according to ethical and professional standards.
Moreover, the TJA insists on the principle of media self-regulation. It is against the proposal for the national media council to authorise or issue media license as, again, it might open a chance for abuse of power.
Besides the NRSA, the National Legislative Assembly is also considering other laws that might be controlling the media including the requirement for a media outlet to register as a member of the national media council before it can operate.
Moreover, the failure of such "media reform" can be seen from the use of special power via Article 44 of the Interim Constitution as the NCPO chief ordered five-year extension of the time before military and government bodies return radio frequencies to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission for new allocation. This means the extension of broadcast media being under the state power.
"During the media reform, the government is trying to design many laws as the mechanism to control, interfere or threaten the freedom of the press. Concurrently, in many cases the media have violated media code of ethics giving the chance for the government to claim the reasons to control the media," the TJA said.
In the meantime as the media joined the country in mourning the passing of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the Thai press have become depressed with the pressure from the government's attempt to interfere and control the media. Meanwhile, the changing economic and technological environment have forced the media industry to adapt for survival, amid the public's declining trust in the media.
"It is time all the media organisations and professionals adjusted to revive the trust and give hope to the public," the TJA said.
"On the occasion of New Year celebration, the Thai Journalists Association would like to send moral support for the news people to graciously get through this period of crisis together," the media organisation concluded its report.