Thailand election 2019: checking on the list of media outlets, “Which ones have been punished” during the election battle.

 

After having endured for 8 years, The first Thailand election was incoming. Therefore, during this time, all media outlets have broadcasted political news. As could be seen from TV, newspaper, and other websites, news about politics, other policies, debates among parties, and analysis on political news  have been broadcasted widely. However, it is undeniable that for these five years, the press cannot work independently, and they  are still limited with the NCPO order No.97/2014 and 103/2014, along with intensively enforcing law and the restrictions within the media organizations themselves. Thus, during the period of 2019 election, these restrictions have still remained and become obstruction for the press to broadcast news to the public at least 3 times.


Voice TV went off the air after having criticized the election under the NCPO government.


On 12 February 2019, the conference of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) considered about the content of the following 5 programs, such as an episode of Tonight Thailand program which was broadcasted on 16 December 2018 and 4 episodes of Wake up news which were broadcasted on 21, 28, and 29 January and on 4 February 2019. The authority viewed that the content could lead to confusion, sedition, and social division according to the Announcement of the NCPO order No. 97/2014 and No. 103/2014 as well as Section 37 of the Broadcasting and Television Business Act. Also, it was a recidive, so the order was released to shut down the Voice TV station for 15 days between 13 and 27 February 2019.   

 

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From the perspective of the NBTC, the content of programs led to confusion. For example, in Wake up news program, on 21 January 2019, a moderator criticized and expressed opinion in the way that the authority did not want to hold the election, and the state organizations did not want to have election as well. What’s more, there was a collaboration between the Palang Pracharat Party and the Democrat Party in order to set up the government. For this part, audiences might misunderstand that the Palang Pracharat Party gained an advantage, and the election might not be free and fair as well.

In addition, Tonight Thailand program, on 16 December 2019, broadcasted the interview of Sudarat keyuraphan, a candidate of Pheu Thai Party. In the interview, Sudarat said that soldiers and police had followed her and hoped that the ECT (Election Commission of Thailand) would work independently. Without information that the moderator mentioned further about exercising of state authority which prevented villagers to talk with representatives of Pheu Thai Party, it led people to confusion toward the soldier and police duties.


On 14 February 2019, Voice TV brought charge against the NBTC at the Central Administrative Court and asked for revoking the NBTC’s shutdown order for 15 days. During the trial, the Central Administrative Court released provisional injunction, which enabled Voice TV continue to broadcast. Later, the verdict was announced on 27 February 2019;  it identified that the presentation of Voice TV led people to confusion, sedition, disturbance, or social division.

Furthermore, the NBTC said that the act of Voice TV was recidive. It appeared on the written evidence that the details of summoning Voice TV to explain about the program lacked an  issue about recidive. Clearly, the NBTC did not intend to consider about recidive and did not allow Voice TV to prove itself. Furthermore,  the NBTC claimed that the presentation of Voice TV led to confusion repetitiously, so it  was reasonable to shut down the whole station for 15 days. However, it was unsound argument; thus, the resolution of the NBTC was revoked, on 12 February 2019.

Since 2014, the NBTC has punished the media at least 59 times such as Voice TV, Peace TV, Springnews, and Tnews. The penalties were imposed on media such as warning to edit content, being fined, and being banned from broadcasting, especially Voice TV which has been punished by the NBTC at least 24 times.

 

The Economist was banned due to the content regarding a candidate of Thai Raksa Chart party.
 

On 16 February 2019, Nuttaa Mahattana, a political activist, said on the twitter that the Economist sent emails to members. The email said that the Economist magazine with the cover “ The Rise of millennial socialism” published on 16 February 2019, would have been pulled all copies off the shelves. However, the members could read on the online website as usual. Having searched on the website, it was found there was an article called “ The military junta’s scheme for Thailand’s election is back on track.” In summary, on 8 February 2019, Thai Raksa Chart party would put “Princess Ubolratana” forward as a candidate of the party. Later on, the King Rama X announced royal command to assure that “Princess Ubolratana” was one of royal family members of the Chakri dynasty. Therefore, the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) had ruled to disqualify Princess Ubolratana, as the candidate of Thai Raksa Chart after that. Also, there was an analysis from some mysterious observers about the story of nominating the Prime Minister candidate.


After that day,  coup rumors had spread. With this situation, many politicians and analysts cannot clearly mention about the candidate of Thai Raksa Chart due to fear of Section 112 of the Criminal Code. Meanwhile, the authority seized opportunity to shut down Voice TV for 15 days, which Panthongtae Shinawatra, a son of Thai former Prime Minister, was a founder of Voice TV. Aftermaths, the ECT submitted this affair to the Constitutional Court to interpret that whether nominting Princess Ubolratana as the candidate violated Organic Law on the Political parties, and it would lead to dissolution or not. The Thai Raksa Chart dissolution would affect on Thaksin's campaign strategy which was a multi-pronged strategy in order to defeat the voting system of the NCPO (National Council for Peace and Order). Provided that the Thai Raksa Chart dissolution were final, the proportion of  members of the House Representatives from both large and small parties, which were a part of Thaksin’s network, would decrease. Therefore, it would be difficult to prevent Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the head of NCPO and the Prime Minister, to become the next Prime Minister again.

 

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The NCPO appointed 250 senators and need 126 members of the House Representatives for voting Gen. Prayuth to be the next Prime Minister, which was not difficult. For months ago, Gen. Prayuth used official appointment to visit all over the country whereas politicians were banned to perform election campaign according to the NCPO order No. 3/2015 that banned political gathering. [However, this order was nullified by the order of the head of NCPO No. 22/2018, on December 2019 ] Apart from this, there was the pro-junta Palang Pracharah party in this election, which expects to secure a number of seats.   

Earlier, Khaosod English reported that on July 2016, The Economist sent emails to the members that the magazine, 23 July 2016 edition, would not be available in Thailand, without clear reasons. On the other hand, on the website, it appeared two articles regarding the monarchy. Aside from the Economist, on April 2016, the Royal Thai Police issued an order to ban the November 2015 edition of  Marie Claire in France, as the content was defamatory toward the monarchy or affected to national security.

 

A moderator was abruptly removed from a live debate due to leading the question which opposed the government.

On  1 March 2019, the board of the state-owned MCOT ordered to pull Orawan Choodee, a content manger of MCOT press agency and a moderator of “the Election War 19,” out from the Election War 19 show. The reason was that “her performance was likely to cause opposition toward the government. ” Orawan Choodee posted on her Facebook page. She said that questioning to 100 students who attended the televised debate and allowing them to voice their opinions might be the reason to remove her from the show.  There are the following four questions:


1.    Do you agree with Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s decision not to debate his political opponents?
2.    Do you agree with the provisional clause in the 2017 Constitution allowing the 250 senators to vote for the Prime Minister?
3.    Do you think that the 20-year National Strategy is necessary for Thailand?
4.    Do you agree that it does not matter whether Thailand is fully or partially democratic as long as people’s lives are improved?


The majority of university students disagree with these four questions, so the authority might be resentful and feel like being frightened by younger people. Therefore, these factors might result in the removal of Orawan from the show. Even though she accepted the decision of the board, she cannot accept their accusation that she was biased.


This issue was widely discussed in social media. Most people gave compliment for “the Election War 19” and questioned about removal of the moderator. Meanwhile, other online users searched the name list of the MOCT board and found that members of the MCOT board have consisted of soldiers as well. Thus, there was the comparison of the number of soldiers who were in the board of State Enterprise between after and before the coup. Apart from this, many parties came out to criticise about the decision of the MCOT Board and supported Orawan as well.
Later on, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association issued a statement which called for the MCOT Board to reverse their decision. However, on 3 March 2019, MCOT president Kematat Paladesh explained that there was no any written orders to dismiss the moderator and to intervene media, according to the source of news. The two moderators still continue to host their program for both radio and television as usual.

In details, it said that it might have misunderstanding during the staff meeting which did the evaluation and analysis on the program in order to improve it. For the first and second rounds, hosting program was not good which was normal for the live moderator. Also, it was recommended that the debate show  mention about social welfare which related to national economy as well as public finance. Therefore, the moderator should be replaced by other ones who had such knowledge about economy in order to create variety for the program which increased knowledge and understanding for audiences.     

To dismiss or not to dismiss media professionals, who reported and expressed their opinions about politics, did not happen for the first time. In 2019, previously,Vanchai Tantivitayapitak, a news director at PPTV, has resigned without providing reasons to the public. Earlier, the NCPO invited the chief executive of PPTV and gave document that contained the Facebook page of  Vanchai which strongly criticised the government in many cases, including of making some agreements with the chief executive.
    



 

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