Criticism of government allowed, assures spokespeople, as Internet censorship looms large
Criticism of the government, as well as calls for faster and more procurements of certain COVID-19 vaccine brands, are allowed, as long as they are based on facts, Government Spokesperson Anucha Burapachaisri, and Deputy Spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek assured the media and the public today (Friday).
A government order banning dissemination of fake and distorted news and fearmongering came into force today with a threat of Internet censorship if violations are found.
Representatives of six Thai media associations submitted an open letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House today, to reiterate their call for the government to lift all restrictions, imposed under the Emergency Decree, on freedom of expression by people and media, with Mr. Anucha receiving the petition and discussing the issue with them.
The spokespeople pointed to an example of a viral photo disseminated online of supposedly wrapped dead bodies on the streets of Phuket designed to show how serious the pandemic is, but the photo turned out to be staged, and not of dead bodies, for the necessity to be strict with fake news.
“We confirm that the government is not restricting people’s rights to expressing their opinions. You can voice criticism, but as long as it is based on facts. If you criticize the government with distorted information, people may be confused, have misunderstandings, and develop hatred,” said Mr. Anucha in a YouTube video posted today.
According to the order, the media are banned from publishing and broadcasting information that incites fear or with intent to twist the information and cause confusion, which may affect national security and stability.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has the authority to revoke the licenses of media which violate the rules. It will be required to not just monitor news deemed to be distorted and fearmongering, but also to inform the police of the identity of the violators. Those found guilty could have their IP address traced and internet access cut by the NBTC.