BANGKOK — A local cable television provider on Friday censored Al Jazeera’s report on the military government’s blockade of Dhammakaya temple, prompting an online reaction from the news agency’s Thailand correspondent.
Wayne Hay, Bangkok-based senior correspondent for Al Jazeera tweeted a picture of a blank television screen with a message in the middle stating: “Programming will return shortly.”
“This is what comes up on screen,” Hay noted on his Twitter account @wayne_hay Friday.
Hay said today that he wasn’t surprised and this wasn’t the first time news items critical of Thailand produced by Al Jazeera have been censored.
“Judging by the stories that have been censored in the past I would suggest the only way to avoid it is to avoid reporting anything critical of Thailand which is something Al Jazeera would never agree to,” Hay said, following an inquiry by Khaosod English.
Hay said he found it to be disappointing for Thai people in search of a different perspective about events in Thailand.
“I think international reporters may look at or report on issues in a slightly different way sometimes and don’t have restrictions or pressures that some Thai organizations might place on their reporting staff,” Hay said. “Having said that, we’re lucky we’re in the digital age and all Al Jazeera’s content is put online either on our own website or YouTube and so far those sites have not been blocked or censored.”
— Wayne Hay (@wayne_hay) 3 March 2017
Supinya Klangnarong, member of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission, or NBTC, tweeted on Saturday saying the NBTC, which is the kingdom’s broadcast regulator, had nothing to do with it. She said she’s not sure if an informal request was made to cable provider TrueVisions by the military government or if TrueVisions was “just too panic to operate pay TV now” (sic).
“In this case, it’s considered self-censorship by TrueVisions, not self-regulations,” Supinya tweeted to Hay and True Visions’ Twitter account @TrueVisions.
Supinya said she would take complaints under consumer protection regulations if any were made but said she wasn’t sure what the board would think.
Private messages to TrueVisions’ Twitter account were unanswered today. TrueVisions, which is part of CP Group, Thailand’s largest business conglomerate, could not be reached for comment by phone as of press time.
Hay said it would be up to Al Jazeera’s main office in Doha to decide whether to lodge a complaint. He insisted that the content was just two and a half minutes long and that it wasn’t particularly inflammatory. The footage is now up on YouTube, of which Hay tweeted a link.
“There’s no way True [Visions] could have seen it or known the content in advance. I really don’t know how they do it but I assume they see the story teaser in promos earlier in the news show and judging by what’s said in that promo, they assume the story may be of a controversial nature so they’re ready to cut when the story starts,” Hay concluded.