Bangkok, February 13, 2019–The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the decision by a Thai media regulator to suspend the broadcasting license of Voice TV for 15 days and called on the country’s military government to allow all media to report freely on the nation’s politics.
The Thai National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission announced yesterday that the suspension, which began today, came in response to Voice TV programs that caused “public confusion and incited conflict,” according to the Bangkok Post daily newspaper.
A senior Voice TV journalist told CPJ that the station’s editors had expected the ban in a heated election campaign season, and would file for an injunction against the suspension at the administrative court tomorrow morning. Thailand is scheduled to hold new elections on March 24, returning the country to democratic governance after nearly five years of military rule.
Voice TV is owned by Panthongtae Shinawatra, the son of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra; it is aligned with the Pheu Thai party, which was ousted in the country’s 2014 military coup and is competing in the upcoming elections, according to news reports.
“Thailand’s elections will not be seen as free and fair if the military government continues to censor the media for reporting on politics,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Media regulators should immediately lift their suspension of Voice TV and allow all media to report freely.”
The senior Voice TV journalist, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said Voice TV would continue to disseminate news by live-streaming on its website and on Facebook.
In a statement protesting the suspension, Voice TV announced that it will take legal action against the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and will file an appeal to the Constitutional Court.
The broadcaster will seek 100 million baht ($3.2 million) in compensation from the commission over this suspension and previous moves to shutter the station in 2014 and 2017, and the suspensions of individual news programs on 17 separate occasions since the 2014 coup, according to The Nation newspaper.
The commission did not immediately reply to CPJ’s request for comment.
Authorities previously shuttered the station for nearly a month after the 2014 coup and again for a week in 2017, CPJ reported. Voice TV has been ordered to remove critical news programs and specific journalists since the coup, as CPJ and local media have covered.