Thailand army tightens media control ahead of draft charter referendum
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Thailand army tightens media control ahead of draft charter referendum

THAILAND’S telecommunications authority has been given the green light to to shut down any radio or television station whose broadcasts are considered a threat to national security.

This is part of the military government’s move to tighten its control on electronic media ahead of the draft constitution referendum next month.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha authorized the move on Thursday by invoking a catch-all article in the country’s temporary constitution that gives the ruling junta absolute power to carry out virtually any action in the name of national security.

The army seized power in May 2014 from an elected government.

The junta has already declared that inappropriate campaigning to affect the referendum’s outcome is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Critics of the draft charter charge that it is undemocratic.

SEE ALSO: What you need to know about Thailand’s controversial constitution referendum

According to Khaosod English, the order came into immediate effect on Thursday by use of the absolute power granted to the junta chief under Section 44 of the interim charter.

With the order, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission will be protected from legal action when regulating any broadcast media reports “deemed as threatening national security or instigating unrest”.

Defaming the monarchy, criticizing the junta with ‘insincere intent’, releasing secret government information, instigating unrest in the kingdom or turning people against the junta, are among the content viewed as threatening to national security according to a junta order launched in 2014, Khaosod reported.

However, the order stipulates that broadcast networks affected by use of the new powers reserved the right to seek compensation from the government.

Late last month, seven Thai activists were sent to prison following their campaign against the junta-backed draft constitution.

The imprisonment by a Thai court came after 13 people were arrested for handing out leaflets calling on the public to vote against the charter.

Additional reporting by Associated Press