BANGKOK — A media law that would empower a council to license journalists was kicked back for changes by a junta-appointed reform body.
The bill, which has won the opposition of just about every journalist organization, was sent back to its drafters by the National Reform Steering Assembly for changes to details that do not concern the establishment of a national council to regulate – and enable possible censorship of – the media.
“The assembly’s resolution is that we agree in principal to have a media professional council legally,” said assembly spokesman Kamnoon Sidhisamarn.
Kamnoon said the assembly decided to push the draft back to its media reform subcommittee to amend some details. They did not identify a timeframe but said it would not take long.
Also Thursday, four former news media editors who had participated in devising the law with media reform committee resigned in protest. They said the most recent draft was different from what they had worked on, so they decided to fight against it as outsiders.
The media reform committee has said the bill will protect press freedoms and establish ethical standards. If it goes into effect, the bill will make it mandatory for journalists to obtain a license subject to review and revocation under the same council, no matter which platform they work for.
Media professionals have been protesting it, as they say it will suppress media freedoms. The main concern is that four out of the 13 council members would be drawn from government officials not publicly accountable.
Before the assembly sent the draft back for revision, representatives of the 30 media organizations which gathered recently to voice opposition resubmitted their petition against the draft to the assembly Thursday morning.
Kamnoon said the assembly raised the issue that the media council must come from diverse backgrounds, and the bill must be consistent with the referendum-approved constitution.
Many journalists have also campaigned against the draft by changing their social media profiles and cover photos to bring attention to the campaign opposing the bill.