Thai junta: we don’t limit media freedom but freedom must be within limits

The Thai military government has invited editors of mainstream media to a few meetings. During the latest on Wednesday, the junta representative threatened editors with prosecution if they cross the line, ironically saying repeatedly that the junta never limits media freedom.
According to the  Daily News, which seems to be the only media outlet with a report, the meeting was hosted by Lt Gen Suchai Pongput, in his capacity as Secretary-General of the junta’s committee to monitor media, at the Signals Department, Royal Thai Army. 
Lt Gen Suchai reminded editors that Announcements No. 97 and 103 of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) are laws, and warned media to follow the two laws. 
Announcement No. 97 states that the authorities can shut down any media, whether print, television, radio or online, if it disseminates information deemed threatening to the monarchy or national security, or criticises the work of the NCPO. The NCPO issued Announcement No. 103 tto amend Announcement No.97 after it was criticized by media professionals. No. 103 states that it prohibits only criticism made with dishonest intentions using false information. Moreover, if any media professional breaches Announcement No.97, the case will be forwarded to a professional council for ethical investigation. 
“[We] urge political columnists, when they write articles, please think carefully. Don’t affect a third person in a way which will create a bad image. The NCPO’ s Announcements No. 97 and 103 are laws. Media, please review them,” the Daily News quoted Lt Gen Suchai as saying. 
The military officer said this meeting does not at all limit media freedom, but was merely a chance for a talk for the “progress of the nation”. 
He added that he has never had to reprimand any media, and that he had to thank the media for their good cooperation. But if any media outlet does not obey the junta, he may have to call them directly. 
In late July, the NCPO reprimanded the right-wing ASTV-Manager weekly magazine, saying that the publication contained “several issues” based on “false information with dishonest intentions” and that the magazine intended to “destroy the credibility of the NCPO,” adding that if the magazine repeated the offence, the NCPO will prosecute the editor under martial law. 
In order to build a strong and unified nation, he urged the media to propagandize the 12 nationalistic values. He also urged the media to report only the truth, to stop using double-meaning words, and to stop implicating a ‘third person’ in the stories.    
“Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Prime Minister and NCPO leader, has never censored the media. We are open, but please stay within the limits. [We] don’t want any colour. [You media] must report news positively. Sometimes, headlines lead to discomfort. Please don’t make them too harsh, although I understand that [headlines] are the highlights, but please soften them. I’d like to ask for the cooperation of columnists too. You editors please remind them for me,” the Daily News quoted Suchai as saying.   
Please note that Prachatai editors have never been invited to such meetings. 

Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: [email protected], please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”