PM Gen Prayut addresses the media issue at Government House today. Credit: Government House

Govt recedes from threat against press freedom following strong criticism

PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed concerned officials to review the order deemed to infringe on press freedom in an attempt to put current political unrest under control, one day after his government has been heavily criticised for such the media handling.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has revealed the latest development on the issue after the weekly Cabinet meeting at Government House today. He spent some five minutes during the press briefing in the afternoon to address the issue solely.

The Prime Minister said he has instructed concerned authorities to review the Emergency Operations Center’s order regarding the media operations during the protests in the past week to ensure that it upholds press freedom.

On Friday, Police Chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, as head of the center, signed the new order to probe into the operations of some media outlets during the protests.

The four outlets Voice TV, Prachathai, The Reporters and The Standard, mostly online-based, have been named by the order as having published some contents “deemed to undermine national security”, which is prohibited under the emergency’s announcements.

The center has instructed the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and the Digital Economy and Society Ministry (DES) to probe into the cases and considers taking action, whether suspending broadcasting or removing the contents of those outlets from the data storage.

However, no particular contents are addressed to the public by the center.

The order immediately drew flak from leading media organisations including the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand or the Thai Journalists Association, which have expressed their strong opposition in the statements. (Read: Media organisations jointly oppose the state threat over press freedom following broadcast on protests accused of undermining national security)

The troop of media follows up the rallies closely with the help of new technology like social media for timely news reporting. Photo: Sayan Chuenudomsavad

As reported today by the EOC, the court has issued an order as requested by the DE to suspend the operations of one of those outlets already, while the rest are under the process.

PM Prayut, however, said the actions by the media this time would rather be subject to reconsideration and discussions to forge understanding about the state’s enforcement.

Only those well-founded actions, which especially concern fake news, distorted information, or sedition would not be spared, PM Prayut stressed, while also addressing how he realised the importance of the media roles in protecting the public interest and pushing the country for changes for the better.

“The media is a crucial force to promote legitimacy and change of the country for the better. The media with impartiality and freedom has long been contributing to the country, especially by acting as a check and balance system and protecting the public interest,” PM Prayut said of the media, stressing this is the key message he wishes to convey to the media in this country.

The PM, meanwhile, also stressed the government’s role in protecting the country against any ill-intent and seditions.