Court order lifts temporary ban against Voice TV

[Thailand] SEAPA lauds court’s decision lifting Voice TV ban; says it ‘gives grounds for hope’

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) welcomes the decision of the Thai court allowing Voice TV to resume its broadcast operations after initially being suspended for 15 days.

The Central Administrative Court handed down the decision on Friday, 15 February 2019, effectively lifting the temporary ban imposed by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) on the digital TV broadcaster on 12 February 2019.

“With elections coming up, the Thai people must not be deprived of information that will enable them to participate meaningfully in the voting process. It behooves the government to allow the media to report freely and independently,” said Tess Bacalla, executive director of SEAPA. “But even beyond elections, media should be given a free rein to carry out its task. The suspension of Voice TV is a serious curtailment of such right.”

“The court’s injunction gives grounds for hope in a country where press freedom has been severely undermined by no less than the state,” she added.

The Central Administrative Court’s order came a day after Voice TV filed for temporary injunction against the 15-day suspension. The broadcast outfit’s director, Prateep Kongsib, argued that Voice TV, by law, should be able to provide information to the public. The ban was also causing significant financial damage to the station, he added.

On 13 February 2019, three media organizations – namely, the Thai Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, and the Online News Providers Association –  issued a joint statement supporting Voice TV. They appealed to the NBTC to reconsider its ban on the media company’s broadcast operations.

The NBTC should exercise its power with prudence, especially as it affects press freedom in the country, they said.

The NBTC’s order against Voice TV violates the constitution and the media and people’s rights, especially against the backdrop of the next vote, scheduled for March 24.

A report by The Nation said the NBTC issued the ban based on “provocative” content previously aired on one of the station’s programs, but provided no details.

A hearing on the NBTC’s suspension of Voice TV is scheduled for Wednesday, 20 February 2019. The Central Administrative Court will issue its decision on 25 February 2019.

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