Peace TV executive Thida Thavornseth reported yesterday on Facebook that the TV channel had just received the suspension order from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), which regulates Thailand’s broadcast media.
The TV channel supports the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), an opposition movement also known as the Red Shirts, which has links to Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister now living in exile.
“We strongly condemn this flagrant violation of media freedom, which calls into question any claim to pluralism in Thailand,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “It is unacceptable for the military junta to keep censoring the media if it wants to stick to its declared aim of holding elections in November. Allowing journalists to do their work would be the best way to ensure the swiftest possible transition to democracy.”
The military have had Peace TV in their sights ever since seizing power in a coup in May 2014. Previously called UDD Channel, it had to change its name in order to resume operating and, since then, the NBTC has suspended its licence four times. The grounds for the latest suspension was a “Direction of Thai Democracy” broadcast in October that included interviews with the supporters of an imprisoned UDD leader.
Under the dictatorial Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the military junta has constantly restricted media freedom and suppressed all criticism of the government ever since the 2014 coup. Journalists and bloggers who do not censor themselves risk prosecution and long jail sentences on defamation or sedition charges.
The well-known journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk is currently facing a possible 14-year jail sentence on a sedition charge that was brought against him last August in connection with comments posted on Facebook.
Thailand is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.