Thai court tosses gov’t ban on news that ‘causes fear’

A scene from ‘The Mitchells Vs The Machines.’
A scene from ‘The Mitchells Vs The Machines.’

The courts sided with the public Friday afternoon, ruling that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha likely exceeded his authority by banning any news or information that could “cause fear” to the public.

After a group of media companies and human rights lawyers petitioned the court, the Civil Court issued an emergency injunction, saying Prayuth exceeded his constitutional authority to forbid such information and deny internet to perceived offenders, even if what they said was true.

The decision came a week after Prayuth issued what was the 29th order under his year-and-a-half old emergency decree. The order, published in the Royal Gazette last week, banned information that could “lead to misunderstanding and affect national security.”

Critics saw it as a desperate attempt to muzzle widespread criticism of his government’s handling of the pandemic.

The order required state broadcast and telecoms regulators to shut down any media outlet deemed in violation.  It also compelled ISPs to cut off the internet to any offending parties. 

Responding to the vaguely worded order, the Human Rights Lawyers Alliance and a dozen media companies – including Prachatai, Voice TV, The Reporters and The Standard – earlier this week appealed to the courts to intervene. 


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