Internet users in Southeast Asia are confronted with a heavily regulated environment in which there are more restrictions being placed on freedom of expression. Despite technological advances, societies undergoing political transitions, such as Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand, have yet to enjoy the full democratic potentials of a free and independent media. Instead of top-down reforms for the media, these countries need policies that prioritize the public’s interests. Only with the meaning public’s meaningful participation of civil society can these reforms become sustainable while supporting democratization.
On Friday, May 17 the Commission of Relatives of May 1992 Heroes in cooperation with hbs held a roundtable seminar in memory of the 21st anniversary of the Black May incident in 1992. In this context the role of the relatively young National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) was discussed, as well as the general development of the media in Thailand since 1992.
In Thailand external and internal deficits challenge the media sector to perform its vital functions in the democratic process, namely to provide orientation to enable deliberation, and to blame and shame wrongdoers to control decision-makers. Challenges such as (self-) censorship, political and economic pressure, physical threats to and poor education of journalists, hate speech and character assassinations need to be addressed and discussed. The legal framework of the media sector needs to strike a balance between freedom of expression, consumer rights, and social responsibility.