Government shuts down radio station

Local community radio station FM92.25, known for its strong criticism of the government, was shut down in an outrageous raid on the station by authorities on 9 August 2005.

The raid on the station took place at about 2:00 p.m. (local time), during regular broadcast programming. On 10 August, local dailies reported that some 30 officials, representing police, the Public Relations Department (PRD) and National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) stormed the station and stripped employees of their work papers.

According to the news reports, they also ordered staff to stop the broadcast immediately or face arrest.

The station was charged with “disseminating false information” tending to “incite the public against government”. The charge came in addition to two other charges that the station had violated transmission rules which, as a result, had disturbed the reception of television signals in nearby homes and interfered with aeronautical radiocommunications.

The authorities said the raid followed a court order and several warnings to the station to correct its technical operation.

But the raid prompted a protest from the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA), a local broadcasters’ association. In a statement issued on 10 August, the TBJA questioned the charge of disseminating false information against the government. “Citing such motives for the raid could violate Articles 39 and 41 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the media and media independence,” said the statement.

The TBJA noted that the station’s right to inform the public and criticise the government were guaranteed by the Constitution. The organisation recalled that the government had previously raided the station several times without court warrants and charges.

In June, the government closed down the FM92.25’s website and harassed the station’s executive director and program host, Anchalee Paireerak, on the same grounds. Anchalee later resigned for fear of her life following a warning that she should stay away from her house.

The radio station and its website, which later resumed operations, remained defiant against the government’s warning of closure.

Since May, the PRD has been spearheading the revamp of community radio stations following complaints that many stations violated community radio rules. The move, however, has been widely viewed by advocacy groups as a means of imposing state control on the fledging sector, which offers alternative information to the state-controlled radio stations.

11 August 2005
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)