BANGKOK — The Criminal Court on Wednesday afternoon repealed a government order to close down a TV channel who’s been broadcasting live coverage of the student-led protests.
Media reports said the court’s decision overturned a previous ruling, which approved the digital ministry’s order to shut down “all platforms” of Voice TV. The decision came after Voice TV representatives argued to the court that the shutdown order breached the constitutional protection of media freedom.
The argument was accepted by the court, who noted that the order did not cite any clear wrongdoing.
The court also rejected the government’s request to block three other online news sites – The Standard, The Reporters, and Prachatai – as well as today’s order issued by the digital ministry to shut down a Facebook page operated by anti-government activists.
There is no immediate response from digital economy and society minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta; he was attending a forum organized by Matichon Group on Wednesday morning.
Buddhipongse’s order that instructed the four media sites to cease their operations accused them of violating the emergency decree, which banned publication of information that caused unrest or affected “good morals of the people.”
The order drew widespread backlashes from rights groups, including Thailand’s two leading media associations who issued statements opposing censorship of the press.
“Censoring the media in this way is therefore an attempt to block the public’s rights to have access to the news,” the Thai Journalist Association said. “As a consequence, more members of the public affected by this censorship may end up joining the demonstrations.”
“The justification used in this instance by the authorities under the controversial new state of emergency is that some reports may undermine national security,” the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand said. “This is overly broad, and can easily be abused to silence reporting that is accurate but makes the government uncomfortable.”