Gov’t Orders Censorship of 4 Media Sites, Reports Say

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha speaks to reporters on Oct. 19, 2020.

BANGKOK — The government ordered the national broadcasting regulator to censor four online news sites for any contents that violate the Emergency Decree, several media agencies reported Monday. 

The order was issued by the government’s anti-protest center and signed by police chief Gen. Suwat  Jangyodsuk, according to photos of the document shared online. It instructed the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to scrutinize the four news agencies and “stop their broadcast, halt their publication, or delete their computer data” in case of any violations. 

The targeted media sites were named as The Reporters, The Standard, Prachatai, and Voice TV. Their representatives insist they did not break any laws and would continue to carry on their operations. 

“Let me affirm that, as a member of the press, we will perform our duty in accordance with our journalistic principles, ethics, and rights and liberty under the law,” The Standard’s editor Nakarin Wanakijpaibul wrote online.

“Honored to report accurate info about human rights and political development in Thailand, we’ll try our best in continuing to do so,” reads a message published by Prachatai’s English edition.

“We have checked and confirmed it’s a genuine document,” Thapanee Eadsrichai, veteran journalist and “The Reporters” founder, wrote online. “We will continue with our duty.” 

“Voice TV would like to affirm that our standard of practice is to do our duty in accordance with journalistic principles, without distorting the information, causing misunderstanding, or sabotaging the national security or peace and order of the public,” wrote Voice TV director Makin Petplai.

There is no immediate response from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

The order said some of the reports published by the four news agencies violate the Emergency Decree, which bans the broadcasting of information that affects national security and “good morals” of the people. It did not specify which news reports were problematic. 

Digital minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta declined to say whether the document is genuine, but said the government is cracking down on websites and online accounts that broadcast the protest or violate the Emergency Decree.

“We will file charges against two or three individuals,” Buddhipongse told reporters. “And as for the media based on Facebook, we have already collected the evidence, because they broke the emergency decree.”

He said security officers are looking into 300,000 URLs of social media users and websites who may breach the emergency rule. 

The news appears to confirm what many fear about PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s declaration of the “Severe State of Emergency” on Thursday – that the decree’s broad power will be used to silence the media institution and censor reports about the opposition to Prayut’s regime. 

“Journalism is not a crime, censorship is not an option,” online news site Thai Enquirer wrote in a statement today. “The government of Prayut Chan-ocha should, instead of censoring the press, read the content of new and digital media to understand the grievances and viewpoints of the people it claims to represent.”

“The Thai Enquirer calls on the government to rescind the gag order immediately and to engage in dialogue with the press, the opposition and the people.” 

A statement released by the Thai Journalist Association on Friday also warned the government not to exploit the emergency rule for its own gains. 

“We urge the government to avoid exercising power under the [Emergency Decree] that infringes on media freedom,” the association said. “They must exercise caution in maintaining peace and order, and state media must not be used to incite hatred of the public against any particular party.”