BANGKOK – Bangkok's central administrative court has permitted a Redshirt-run television station to return to the air while the court deliberates on whether a stage agency's order to shut down the channel was lawful.
Peace TV’s license was revoked in April by Thailand’s media regulatory board, the National Broadcasting Telecommunication Commission (NBTC). The commission said the some of the channel’s talk shows violated prohibitions on the media passed by the military junta that seized power in May 2014. Under the junta's orders, the media is barred from inciting violence, causing "divisions in the kingdom," or criticizing the junta with "malicious" intention.
In response to the ruling, the operators of Peace TV sued the NBTC in administrative court last month for 15 million baht in damages. The operators – most of whom are Redshirt leaders – also asked the court to issue an injunction for Peace TV to return to the air until a verdict is reached.
The court granted the request today, on the grounds that the NBTC prematurely revoked the license of Peace TV without giving the station 15 days to offer a defense, as is required by NBTC regulations.
"There is no evidence, either in the plaintiff's brief or in the trial, that the NBTC offered Peace TV the opportunity to argue its case and present evidence," the court wrote in its decision, adding that the NBTC’s regulations do not allow for any exceptions to this requirement. Therefore, the NBTC's shutdown order "constitutes a potentially unlawful governmental order," the court said.
The ruling added, "If the aforementioned license revocation order continues to be effective, Peace TV will be forced to cease its operation, affecting its revenue from sponsors and company staff, which number more than 100 people, whose employment will be terminated, leading to suffering that is difficult to compensate. Even though the company later broadcast its show on the internet, it cannot compensate the damages caused by this case."
Since the blackout order, Peace TV has been uploading segments of its shows on Youtube.
Redshirt leader Jatuporn Prompan hosting his Peace TV talk show, 'Look Far Ahead,' in a segment uploaded to Youtube, 15 July 2015.
Jatuporn Prompan, a top Redshirt leader and talk show host at Peace TV, said he welcomed the court ruling, and expected the station to be back on air by 20 July. Jatuporn also announced that he will not return his talk show to Peace TV's televised broadcasts.
"To avoid leaving either Peace TV or NBTC with a feeling of victory or defeat, the show ‘Look Far Ahead’ that I host, which caused Peace TV to lose its license, will not return on air on Peace TV station again, until the country returns to a climate that people can discuss things again," Jatuporn told reporters. "But it will still be broadcast on the internet."
Both of Thailand’s Redshirt and Yellowshirt movements have operated their own TV and radio channels featuring news programs and live broadcasts of their political rallies. The partisan channels were initially shut down by the military in the wake of the coup, but later allowed resume operations as long as they agreed not to instigate violence, divisions, or cause "confusion."
Critics say the junta is particularly bent on curbing the influence of the largely anti-coup Redshirt movement, which supported the government toppled in the coup and has determined the winner of every national election for the past decade.