Regime puts journalists in the crosshairs

What does the media rights protection bill hold in store for Thai journalism?

Freedom of expression is under threat in the post-coup era, and now Thai journalists are in the firing line. Since last month, the nation's media circle has been shaken by the "bill on rights protection, ethical promotion and standards of media professionals" -- the media rights protection bill -- proposed by the media reform steering panel of the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA).

The name of the bill sounds optimistic. It purports to improve the media industry. But on closer inspection, the bill could strew obstacles on the road towards democracy.

Initially, the bill proposed a 13-member "national media profession council" which would consist of media representatives, academics and four government representatives -- the permanent secretaries of the finance, digital economy and society, and culture ministries and the Office of the Prime Minister -- and would be empowered to penalise media outlets which violate the code of conduct. The council has the power to issue licences to journalists as well as confiscate them. If the bill becomes law, this will be the first time individual journalists in Thailand will be licensed.

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