BANGKOK — The government said Tuesday a court backed its order to close down “all platforms” of a TV channel known for its extensive coverage of the ongoing protests, a decision decried by critics as censorship.
Digital economy deputy perm sec Putchong Ntethaisong said Voice TV must now shut down all of its broadcasts, whether on air or social media, due to violations of the emergency decree. Putchong said the court is also deliberating on the shutdown order for three other media sites: The Standard, The Reporters, and Prachatai.
Voice TV said it has not received any official documents from the court as of publication.
“For 11 years, Voice TV is a media committed to democracy, giving space to people’s opinions from all sides with openness, transparency, and responsibility to facts,” channel executive Makin Petplai wrote in a statement.
Putchong accused Voice TV and three other media agencies of spreading information that could cause unrest in the country, which is banned under the Severe State of Emergency imposed by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday.
The government order that sought the shutdown of the four media sites was leaked to the internet on Monday. It was signed by the Joint Command for the Administration of the Emergency Situation, or JCAES.
The document drew widespread uproar from government opponents and media watchdogs. The Thai Journalist Association released a statement saying it opposed all attempts by the government to censor the press without clear evidence of wrongdoing.
“Censoring the media in this way is therefore an attempt to block the public’s rights to have access to the news,” the statement said. “As a consequence, more members of the public affected by this censorship may end up joining the demonstrations.”
The Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand also warned that the media have the right to carry out their duty without the government’s threat of bans, suspensions, censorship or prosecution hanging over them.
“The justification used in this instance by the authorities under the controversial new state of emergency is that some reports may undermine national security,” it said. “This is overly broad, and can easily be abused to silence reporting that is accurate but makes the government uncomfortable.”
The statement added, “This is therefore not the time to interfere with the work of professional and accountable journalists. It makes the government appear heavy-handed and unresponsive to criticism, and could stir up even more public anger.”
The police played down the concerns in their news conference on Monday. Assistant police commissioner Lt. Gen.Charuvat Waisaya said the government has no intention to gag the media, but will only deal with some “problematic information” on a case by case basis.