Journalist groups decry new media ethics bill

PHOTO: A new media ethics bill has been condemned by journalist associations. (via iPleaders)

The House and Senate have been debating a new bill that is supposed to promote media ethics and set media professionalism standards. Now, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA) and the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) have both voiced their strong opposition to the bill.

In a statement, the TBJA demanded that the bill be withdrawn, citing concerns that it would provide legal tools for the control and censorship of the media if enacted. The TBJA argued that the 49-section bill fails to take into account that other professionals could join the media profession and fears it could restrict media professionals’ freedoms and rights.

The bill is being discussed without the input of media professionals and other sectors, The TBJA complained. The creation of a new media council to become the legal registrar of media professionals would be an ineffective method of restricting media freedom.

The TBJA also raised concerns about the selection process of members of the new media council, which could be influenced by nepotism, leading to the council being used to protect those in power.

The journalist association also stated that the bill would be uselessly rehashing over 30 existing pieces of legislation that media professionals already have to follow. These include the Criminal Code and the Civil Code. The TBJA dismissed the bill’s claims of guaranteeing press freedom, calling it a smokescreen, as it would prioritize the goals of state media over press freedom and freedom of expression.

The TBJA argued that the new media council would be unnecessary as several media organizations already exist, and the establishment of a new council would waste resources from the national budget. They expressed concerns about the media profession committee, which would comprise five media representatives and five specialists. It would be responsible for registering media professionals or disqualifying them.

The committee would not be directly linked to media professionals or the people, and its members would be picked by a selection committee. The TBJA condemned this misguided set-up.

Last year, the Public Relations Department and the Office of the Council of State modified the bill. This won the support of the TJA and the Press Council of Thailand (PCT). But the TBJA outlined four major objections to the modified media bill:

  1. The bill would allow state media to prioritise the goals of their agencies over press freedom and freedom of expression in line with media ethics.
  2. The new media council would be redundant as several media organizations already exist.
  3. The media profession committee would not be directly linked to media professionals or the people, and its members would be picked by a selection committee.
  4. The bill states that those violating media ethics would be punished with a warning or shaming in public, which is already implemented by existing media organizations.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.