Authorities shut TV news station in Thailand

Bangkok, April 29, 2015–Thai authorities on Monday revoked the operating license of Peace TV, a news station aligned with the elected government ousted in last year’s military coup, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the move and calls for Thai authorities to stop harassing and censoring the media.

“The banning of Peace TV is at direct odds with the government’s stated policy to work toward national reconciliation between competing political groups,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Reconciliation requires the free flow of information and opinions among all the country’s political actors, a role the media should be allowed to play without fear of reprisal.”

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission’s media monitoring committee banned Peace TV for airing news that “could stir up unrest,” according to news reports. The regulatory agency had suspended the station for one week beginning April 11 for the same reason, reports said. The reports did not indicate what specific program or commentary the NBTC authorities deemed objectionable.

The station’s director, Anakasak Khamkao, said he would consider challenging the ban at the country’s Administrative Court, reports said.

Peace TV featured regular programs hosted by leaders of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship protest group, known as the Red Shirts, according to news reports. The group clashed violently with the military in May 2010, resulting in over 90 deaths.

Under Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the NTBC has enforced broad censorship directives, including bans on news that could “create confusion, instigate unrest or deepen divisions among people.” Prayuth lifted martial law earlier this month, but his invocation of Article 44 in the military’s interim constitution includes similar media censorship guidelines.

NBTC’s secretary general, Takorn Tantasith, said earlier this month that his agency would take legal action to suspend or withdraw the operating licenses of nearly 200 radio stations for airing news deemed to be critical of the government, according to news reports. Takorn said the stations had violated guidelines defining permissible news outlined in memoranda of understanding each of the country’s 3,400 community radio stations signed with the NBTC, the reports said.