A SENIOR official from Thailand’s National Reform Council has suggested that journalists be given the death sentence if they issue reports critical of the military.
Lt Gen Thawatchai Samutsakhon made the remark at the tabling of the Protection of Media Rights and Freedom, Ethics and Professional Standards Bill on Monday, local media reported.
During debate on the bill, Thawatchai referred to comments made by Pol Gen Seripisut Temiyavet, a former police commander, who recently gave interviews condemning the military.
“He has no respect [for the military],” Thawatchai said, as quoted by Prachatai English.
“Journalists who report these things should be executed by firing squad.”
The controversial Bill, which will subjects Thailand’s media to a new licensing system, was approved with 141 votes in favour, 13 against, and 17 abstentions.
The Bill, according to Prachatai, will now be submitted to the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) for final approval.
The Bill will see the establishment of a 15-member National Professional Media Council (NPMC), two of whom will come from the government. The council will be given the authority to approve or revoke media licences, while unlicensed media outlets could face fines and imprisonment.
When discussing for the need for the law, NRC whip spokesperson Pornthip Rojanasunand supported the formation of the council, saying self-regulation has proved itself ineffective.
She said the Bill is even more crucial with the increasing popularity of social media.
“The media nowadays make video clips to defame people. This is very difficult to control … and is destroying society,” Pornthip said.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha sought to allay fears about the Bill, telling representatives of 30 media organisations he was willing to listen to their concerns about its contents.
However, he said the Bill was still needed to address “problems” in the media.
“You are free in every way today. Don’t forget that I gave you freedom and have never messed with anyone. Prayuth said, as quoted by Khaosod English.
“I’ve never sued anyone, and I’ve never ordered any media shut down. What can we do to prevent these things from happening, so the next government can survive?”
All major media associations and organisations in the country, according to Khaosod, have vowed to defy measures put in place by the Bill, should it become law.