Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday attempted to allay fears over the controversial media regulatory bill, denying it was intended to restrict media freedom and calling for mutual trust between the media and the government.
He said it was necessary to have a new law to regulate the mass media, particularly online social media, due to a lot of problems created by “bad people” who spread false information irresponsibly.
“Do not fear restriction of the media. Why do I need to do so? I cannot work without the media. The media help expand my understanding. The media warn me about something bad, and I am ready to look into it,” Prayut said.
He urged the media to accept a regulating committee in the new legislation, but said he did not completely agree with the draft bill proposed by the National Reform Steering Council.
“I still do not agree with the draft. Before agreeing with it, I have to listen to the people and the media so see what they think,” he said.
Prayut did not elaborate as to whether he was referring to a proposed requirement that all media professionals, including those in the social media, need to have licences.
Any media professional working without a licence risks a jail term of up to three years or a maximum fine of Bt60,000, or both, according to the media reform bill.
The prime minister said media groups had admitted they were unable to regulate their members and therefore a regulating body was required to find those responsible when something wrong happens.
He maintained that he was not blaming the media but that the regulating body was required to prevent “bad people” from doing whatever they liked.
“Other countries have the same thing and they have problems with social media. We are adopting a principle that is acceptable to the international community,” he said.