THE CRIMINAL CHARGE of defamation filed by four members of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission’s telecom committee against a researcher and a broadcaster amounts to intimidation of the rights of the media and scholars to scrutinise the regulatory body, NBTC member Supinya Klangnarong said yesterday.
Her remark follows charges filed last week by four of the five panel members – Settapong Malisuwan, Suthiphon Taveechaiyagarn, Prasert Silphiphat and Sukit Khamasundara -together with the NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasit, against Deunden Nikomborirak, a researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute, and Natta Komolwatin, a news anchor at ThaiPBS.
The allegation refers to Deunden’s comments in some newspapers and on a ThaiPBS television programme, of which Natta is the moderator, about the NBTC’s interim measures for protecting TrueMove and Digital Phone Co subscribers after the two operators’ concessions end on September 15.
Deunden also said the NBTC’s delay in the auction of fourth-generation wireless broadband licences could cost the country about Bt160 billion.
Settapong, who is chairman of the telecom committee, denied that the lawsuit was intended to intimidate scholars and the media, and said it had been pursued to defend the dignity of the watchdog.
His panel has pursued its duties in the rightful way, he added. Supinya, however, said she strongly disagreed with the filing of the suit as it damaged the watchdog, whose members could resort to their right to clarify their position on the case.
She added that if the filing were accepted by the court and entered the judicial process, she would testify as a defence witness. The NBTC has agreed to ensure continuing service to subscribers of TrueMove’s and Digital Phone Co’s mobile operations after their concessions expire in the middle of the month.
The commission will allow the companies and their concession owner CAT Telecom to continue serving these users for one more year after the expiry date on the 1,800megahertz spectrum, which could have been used to provide 4G service.
The Thailand Development Research Institute, ThaiPBS and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association will jointly announce their position on the case today.
They consider that the telecom committee’s filing of the lawsuit will affect the work of academics and the media in scrutinising the performance of the regulator.