The ruling Council on National Security (CNS) is invoking military order No. 10 for the first time since issuing it on 20 September 2006, the day after it staged a bloodless putsch. The order urges media cooperation in reporting state affairs accurately and constructively, with peace and national unity as the primary considerations, and explicitly targeted news reports that might by deemed as bolstering Thaksin’s position.
Local reports said some 50 executives from radio and television stations were invited to a meeting with the CNS on 10 January 2007, during which they were asked not to allow the broadcast media be used as a platform for Thaksin to defend himself against abuse of power and corruption charges.
General Vinai Patthiyakul, secretary-general of the CNS, said they had been monitoring ”with great tolerance” the broadcast media’s coverage of Thaksin and his cronies for the past three months, claiming there had been an overdose of rebuttals made by Thaksin through his lawyer.
He said such programmes would be removed in future and warned of tougher measures against the broadcast media should they disregard the CNS’ “request for cooperation”.
Close to four months after the coup d’etat, signs of increasing political restlessness are emerging in Thailand. An initially supportive media is starting to criticise the CNS’ leadership for its perceived inefficiency. The “undercurrents” came to a head on New Year’s Eve when nine bombs hit Bangkok and Nonthaburi, a province immediately north of the capital, killing three people and injuring 42. The authorities blame Thaksin supporters for the attacks, but Thaksin has denied any involvement.
SEAPA deplores the invoking of the order on the broadcast media. Censoring the media will only backfire on the CNS, especially at a time of waning confidence in its leadership as it signals a further loss of control of an already fragile situation. A deteriorating environment for media freedom is also counterproductive to the CNS’ professed aim of putting Thailand back on a democratic path. The media should be allowed to report the news as they see fit, and that includes any rebuttal from the CNS itself.