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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Thai Government To Control News Media That Report On Protests

Posting photos from the protests and using Telegram are outlawed

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Chatwan Mongkol
Chatwan Mongkol
A freelance journalist based in Bangkok, Thailand covering Thai politics

THAILAND. Bangkok. The fourth order under the severe state of emergency signed on 16 Oct. orders the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) and Digital Economy and Society Ministry (MDES) to monitor and suspend the broadcasts of five online news outlets.

Voice TV, Prachatai, The Reporters, The Standard, and Free Youth are on the list. The hashtag #saveสื่อเสรี (save free media) trended on Twitter immediately after the order went viral.

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According to the Emergency Decree that was imposed in response to the ongoing anti-government movements, the authorities can ban content that creates fear and misinformation that can affect national security.

PPTV reported that the MDES is preparing to take legal actions with content that violates the Emergency Decree and the Computer Crime Act. MDES Minister Puttipong Punnakanta said the ministry found over 300,000 illegal URLs, and the owners’ identifications are underway. He also said some online news outlets will also be prosecuted.

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Following the order, The Reporters, The Standard, and Voice TV released statements reassuring their journalism missions. All of them continue their reporting.

Posting from the protests are illegal

It was reported on 16 Oct. that posting on social media — including encouraging others to protests, spreading misinformation, checking in, and posting photos of themselves at the protests — is illegal; and violators can face up to two years in jail and up to 40,000 Baht fine. The report stated 10 people have already been charged.

Attempting to ban Telegram

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Another platform that protesters use to communicate is Telegram, a Russian application. On 19 Oct., Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) released the tenth order under the Emergency Decree that suspends the use of the application.

Telegram has been used in the recent days after Free Youth’s and United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration’s Facebook pages posted that their pages might be taken down by the MDES.

As of 9:30 p.m. of 19 Oct. (ICT), Free Youth’s chat group has 200,000 members while the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration has over 37,000 subscribers on Telegram.

The Thai government isn’t the only one that tried to block Telegram, the Russian government already tried and failed according to Reuters.

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