BANGKOK — The national broadcasting regulator on Wednesday suspended a popular news talk program on Voice TV for 15 days, saying it caused confusion and incited societal division.
Voice TV – owned by Pathongthae Shinawatra, son of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra – will appeal the decision against “Tonight Thailand” and seek a temporary injunction at the administrative court, its management said Tuesday.
A sub-committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission, or NBTC, cited a program aired on Dec. 26 and two others aired on March 1 and March 5 as problematic.
A minute from the meeting obtained by Khaosod English shows the program on the December evening violated the MOU that bans criticism of the military junta.
It said the March 1 program was found to be “sarcastic” against the national leader.
“The sarcasm was too much and caused confusion. What was said was not truthful, such as government corruption or comparing [Prayuth] to Pinocchio, which is tantamount to saying the premier is a liar,” the minute read.
The summary of the sub-committee’s meeting, signed by member Direk Rowas also noted that the channel repeatedly replayed the image of anti-junta activist Sirawith Seritiwat, or Ja New, wearing a Pinocchio mask while other TV stations only showed it once.
The subcommittee concluded that a March 5 interview with Future Forward Party co-founder Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, in which he appears to compare the country to a house, caused division in society and contained unsubstantiated accusations.
“It’s like the house we live in today. One day we feel that things are not working, we want to change the house and build a new house and then there’s the former owner who rules over the old house who come and tell us, hey, hey, hey, you must bear with it and stay on, and you cannot dismantle the house because it’s already beautiful,” the minute quoted Piyabutr.
“But we feel very uncomfortable. We don’t want to live there, so there’s only one option which is to leave for another house – or you have to stay on and fight the rulers who seized power and said the house sucks and needs change,” it continued.
The document said that such statement incited the populace to fight and that saying people want to change the house or build a new one suggested “this house lacks fairness,” adding that the vague use of the word “house owner” could lead to many interpretation and that it was thus “dangerous.”
A co-host of the program, who spoke on condition of anonymity for lacking official consent, said such punishment is an overreaction and disproportionate, adding that the meeting minute suggested the station should have been given a warning instead of having the program suspended 15 days. “It’s as if they want to mete out a punishment, they will just do it.”
Part of the minute also stated that the program’s host should not say the country was better under Thaksin than under military rule.