Thai media want clear free expression guarantee in interim charter

alerts-button-1.jpgThe Thai media will call on the Council for Democratic Reform (previously called Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy) to guarrantee free expression and and press freedom under Thailand’s interim Constitution.

In a united statement following a meeting of about 30 chief editors and senior editors of the mainstream press and broadcast media, and representatives of cable television and provincial journalist networks, the editors expressed concern that article 3 – which touches on civil liberties – of the 39-chapter interim charter is too vague, despite its affirmation of Thailand’s commitment to international laws and treaties, including the guarantee of basic rights.

The editors want the Council to spell out clearly the protection to civil liberties and media freedom and independence, which must be no less than what was offered under the previous Constitution.

They say there should be a clear commitment to press freedom because even under the 1997 Constitution which had fully guaranteed press freedom, unprecedented violations and threats against the media took place under ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The 1997 Constitution, which was abrogated by the military Council following the 19 September bloodless coup against Thaksin, clearly stated the people’s right to free expression and media freedom in articles 39 and 41.

The editors also expressed specific concern over the military’s interference in the broadcast media, especially in the absence of the National Telecommunication Commission and the National Broadcasting Commission, which have been made defunct by the Council. The editors want assurance that the state and army-controlled radio and television stations will be protected from non-media interference under the interim Constitution.

Under article 40 of the previous charter, the two commissions functioned as independent regulators of the airwaves, ensuring fair and transparent distribution of frequencies, effectively ending the state and army’s monopoly of the airwaves.

The international human rights and media rights community has denounced the Council for suppressing the media. Although the mainstream press and foreign media have been allowed to operate as usual, the broadcast media are under total military control, anti-coup protesters have been arrested, political gatherings banned and community radios and websites deemed a threat to the present administration shut down.

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