Citing Martial Laws, Military Censors Media

Soldiers stand guard at Thai Com satellite HQ in Pathumthani province, 20 May 2014

BANGKOK – The Thai military shutdown ten TV stations allied with both pro- and anti-government factions after declaring martial law early this morning.

Citing the power to censor the media in section 11 of the country's 100-year-old martial laws, the army’s newly-formed Peace and Order Maintaining Command (POMC) suspended 10 satellite TV channels in order to prevent the dissemination of "misleading" information that could cause public confusion and unrest.

The suspended TV stations include Asia Update and Blue Sky TV, which have served as the mouthpieces of the pro-government United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) and the anti-government People's Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD), respectively.

Both stations have regularly broadcasted live footage from their supporters' protest sites across the country.

So far, all politically-affiliated TV stations appear to have complied with POMC's demands, except for the anti-government T News station, which has announced its intention to appeal the order. 

In statement posted on its website, T News says it’s a for-profit TV station "without affiliation to any political faction,” and cannot afford to cease its operation because of an outstanding debt of 125 million baht. 

"We are appealing the POMC to allow T News to continue our commercial operations, otherwise the company will suffer massive financial losses," the statement reads.

According to the POMC's statement, all unlicensed "community radios" will be taken off the air as well. Many local Redshirt groups operate unregistered  "community radio stations," such as the UDD hardline faction allied to Redshirt activist Wuttipong "Ko Tee" Kochthammakul, who is thought to be currently living in exile.

Although most mainstream news outlets are being permitted to operate normally, the POMC stressed that all media must refrain from "inciting chaos" or reporting anything that "affects the peace and order maintaining operations of the security force."

Martial law, which grants the military “superior power over the civil authority” in matters of maintaining public order, was declared at 3:00 a.m. this morning by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army and chairman of the recently-installed POMC.

The military has ordered representatives from all state agencies to attend a 2:00 p.m. meeting this afternoon to discuss the declaration of martial law at military bases across the country. 

 

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