Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has suspended for one month the license of a TV network which has been criticizing the policies of the military-led government.
Signed on August 9, 2017, the NBTC order will take effect once the letter is delivered to the Peace TV network.
Peace TV is affiliated to the United Front Against Dictatorship for Democracy, a group also known as “red shirts” whose prominent leaders are supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Some “red shirts” are also known critics of the Lese Majeste (anti-Royal Insult) law, which the government has been using to prosecute activists and anti-junta politicians.
Thailand’s army grabbed power in 2014 and has remained in power through a constitution it drafted. It vowed to restore civilian rule once political and electoral reforms have been implemented. Since 2014, the junta has strictly regulated the media and arrested Internet users accused of defaming authorities.
NBTC said Peace TV violated the law when it aired two programs in July that undermined the constitutional monarchy, national security and “good morality.” However, it didn’t specify which parts of the programs have incited the public to oppose the government.
This is the third time that Peace TV has been suspended by the NBTC. It was previously suspended in April 2015 and July 2016 for allegedly threatening national security.
Some believe Peace TV was suspended because it dared to call former army chief and now Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha a dictator:
— Sunai (@sunaibkk) August 10, 2017
The Southeast Asian Press Alliance questioned the harsh ruling of the NBTC since it will affect all programs and employees of the TV network:
We see the suspension order as too severe, given that the NBTC has identified specific programming on specific dates that it deemed violating Thailand broadcasting laws. The order punishes the entire station including all programs regardless of content, and all personnel regardless of role.
The group also warned that the NBTC order will lead to the further curtailment of press freedom in Thailand:
Such broad and sweeping powers, especially under a regular law must be used with restraint and proportionality, considering that it can set precedents to be used to potentially infringe on freedom of the press and the public’s right to know and hear all sides of the political discourse in Thai society.
Peace TV officials insisted that the program episodes cited by NBTC didn’t incite the public to rise up against the junta. They added that during the month-long suspension, Peace TV programs will still be aired through Facebook Live.
They also questioned the timing of the suspension order, which coincided with the August 25 corruption hearing of ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. But Prime Minister Prayut denied that the TV network was suspended in order to silence supportive “red shirt” media during Yingluck’s trial. He said that it this were the intention of the government, then all media networks should be suspended by NBTC.