Thailand’s Civil Court temporarily suspends Prime Minister’s order to ban media’s freedom of speech

PHOTO: Naewna

Bangkok –

Thailand’s Civil Court this afternoon, August 6th, has temporarily suspended the government’s order to ban “fake news” that could cause public panic and affect national security, and shut down websites under the Emergency Decree.

Based on how the order had been written, even news that was true could be a violation if the government deemed it as “causing public fear, fearmongering, scaring people, or panic.” This particular portion of the law was a major concern for critics of the legal order.

The ruling came after several local media organizations, led by ‘The Reporters’ online news founder Thapanee Eadsricha, had filed a petition to the court earlier this week to revoke the law as, according to them, it has deprived the basic rights of the people and the media who deserved to truthfully acknowledge and publish information of daily situations, especially about the Covid-19 worsening pandemic and resulting protests.

According to the announcement in the Royal Gazette on July 29th, the law prohibits all false and/or misleading information that could lead to public panic, confusion, and wrongdoings that might cause damages, worsening acts, and/or affect national security during the Emergency Decree implementation.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) was authorized to shut down certain IP addresses and/or media that reportedly violated the order, if found guilty, before filing criminal charges against the internet users to Royal Thai Police. This portion was also a major concern to opponents of the law.

PHOTO: Matichon

The filed petition stated that such law has unreasonably limited the rights and liberties of an individual, contrasting Section 26 of the Thai Constitution.

Additionally, the NBTC’s power to cut down the internet service of IP addresses that have published false or “scary” information was an unlawful restriction as the Prime Minister’s alleged right to order internet service suspension does not appear in Section 9 of the Emergency Decree.

After the reading, the Court, therefore, has ordered in favor a temporary prohibition against the government’s law issued under Article 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration B.E. 2558 (No. 29), pending entry by the Court of a changed order in this action.

The Court’s English-language announcement read: “Considering that Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005) (No. 29) provides the Prime Minister no authorization to suspend internet services, Article 2 of the Regulation authorizing the suspension of internet services provision against the Internet Protocol address (IP address) of which the user has disseminated the information is not compatible with the Regulation and is contrary to the law.”

TPN media notes it is a temporary suspension as the matter will be further debated and decided by Thai courts in the future, however, is a relief for many media organizations.

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