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Licensing or Censorship? NSRA Panel Stand Firm On Media Licensing

Bangkok, Tue Apr 11 2017
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Media personnel in Thailand are to be licensed and failure to register will result in penalties of up to two years in jail or a fine of up to 60,000 baht, the media reform committee decided yesterday.

The committee, which is under the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA), also insisted on having two permanent secretaries sitting on the proposed media professional council, despite strong opposition by media groups, which said this could lead to interference from the state.

Police Major-General Pisit Pao-in, the committee’s vice chairperson, said that the panel would convene tomorrow to go through its various resolutions after the NRSA whip had requested that it get them in order following opposition by major media groups, including the Thai Journalists Association. The committee started to draft the new media regulation bill last year, under which media personnel would be regulated via a proposed licensing system and there would be supervision by a new media professional council.

Fear of State Interference

Some media groups fear that these regulatory proposals could lead to state control and interference in the media’s work. Pisit said the new licensing system would require all members of the media to register after being certified by the council and failure to conform would result in penalties.

The licensing system is intended to follow the formation of the professional council two years after the law is enacted.

Pisit also said the committee insisted on having two permanent secretaries sitting on the media council, halving the number that had been proposed previously.

Another four committee members would come from independent as well as civil organisations, while the remaining seven would be from media professional organisations.

However, there is still a debate as to whether two of the seven media seats should be given to media professionals from upcountry provinces, the vice chair added.

A finalised draft law, which has been delayed from last month’s deadline, is now expected to be presented to the NRSA’s whip first, before proceeding to an NRSA meeting for endorsement. It will then be forwarded to the Cabinet, which will submit it to the National Legislative Assembly for deliberation before it comes into effect.

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