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Thai media to remain free but monitored to prevent further conflict, junta says

Publication Date : 28-06-2014

 

In meeting with media chiefs, general says editors will be contacted the next time the junta disagrees with reports

 

The Thai junta yesterday insisted that press freedom would be maintained, but stressed it was necessary to monitor the media because the country was in a "special" situation.

In a meeting at the Army Club with more than 40 editors and executives from print and broadcast media , National Council for Peace and Order secretary-general General Udomdej Sitabutr said the NCPO needed to control the media at the moment to prevent further chaos.

"We did not intend to restrict media freedom but want to encourage each other," Udomdej said.

He shed more light on a newly formed panel to monitor the media, saying the panel would continue the task that the NCPO had done since the May 22 power seizure.

Udomdej said the NCPO would consider revoking an order aimed at preventing negative comments about the junta from appearing in the media when the time was appropriate.

Referring to fugitive former Pheu Thai party chief Charupong Ruangsuwan's anti-coup movement overseas, Udomdej said the media would be allowed to present the movement if it used good judgement to prevent further conflict.

On Wednesday, military officers walked into editorial rooms of a Thai newspaper to show the junta's disapproval of a report carried by the paper on Charupong's Free Thai Organisation.

Udomdej said the next time there would be a problem, the NCPO would contact the concerned news organisation's editors.

He said Charupong's organisation would not affect the NCPO but he did not want the movement to get more support.

Udomdej said "colour-coded" television stations like the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Asia Update and BlueSky, with which anti-Thaksin protesters have a strong affiliation, would be allowed to resume broadcasting only when the situation has stabilised.

Meanwhile, Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew, deputy chief of the NCPO, assured the media that the junta would not disturb press freedom, saying the new committee was set up to merely monitor the media.

Representatives of the Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association met Adul, who chairs the committee, to express their concerns.

The two groups urged the junta to respect press freedom and the people's right to know what was happening.

They said the junta should have clear guidelines for officials attached to many media organisations.

Adul said his committee would monitor the media and the NCPO would issue warnings if the committee found irregularities in reports.

Asked if the junta would send any more officials into editorial rooms, Adul said there was no policy to do so.

Representatives of the associations also asked Adul to explain why veteran journalist and Matichon group owner Khanchai Boonpan was summoned by the junta despite his health issues, Adul said it was a mistake and it had been corrected.

Khanchai's nephew informed the junta that he could not comply due to ill health. The junta issued a warrant to prosecute him and later revoked the warrant with an unclear explanation.

 

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