BANGKOK — Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has disputed a state agency's decision to pull a Redshirt-operated TV station off the air, calling the move an unjustified violation of freedom of expression.
Peace TV’s license was revoked last month by Thailand’s media regulatory board, the National Broadcasting Telecommunication Commission (NBTC).
NBTC officials said the channel had violated junta orders that forbid media from inciting violence or causing "divisions in the Kingdom." Redshirt leaders later filed a complaint to the NHRC and asked the committee to investigate the ruling.
NHRC director Niran Pitakwachara said today that the committee believes the shut-down order was delivered without due process or cause.
"We have not found any content [on Peace TV] that incited unrest or divisions," Niran said. "The reason cited in the [NBTC’s] explanation does not match the station’s news. It is a judgement that violates the liberty and rights of expression of media agencies."
He added, "Furthermore, the NBTC never allowed the accused to explain their cases."
Niran encouraged the Redshirts to include his committee’s verdict when they file a lawsuit against the NBTC, as Redshirt leader Nattawut Saikua has vowed to do.
Although the station's broadcast license was formally rescinded on 30 April, Peace TV staff have continued to film and upload segments on YouTube.
Both of Thailand’s Redshirt and Yellowshirt movements operate their own TV and radio channels featuring news programs and live broadcasts of their political rallies. Media agencies affiliated with the two groups played significant roles in the pro- and anti-government rallies last year that culminated in the May 2014 coup.
After the military takeover on 22 May 2014, the junta has banned all political activities and prohibited the media agencies from aggressively criticizing the regime. TV channels affiliated to both Redshirt and Yellowshirt movements were allowed to operate – as long as they agree not to instigate violence, divisions, or "confusion" among the public.
Critics say the junta is particularly bent on curbing the influence of the largely anti-coup Redshirt movement, which has commanded the polls and elected majorities in congress in every national election for the past decade.