Thailand’s new restrictions further undermine press freedom
Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has called on the media to stop covering pro-democracy activists calling for reform of the monarchy.
NBTC commissioner Lt. Gen. Perapong Manakit called on the media to refrain from interviewing protest leaders or anyone who agreed with their demands for the need to reform the monarchy.
The warning, deemed ominous to further restrict free speech in the Southeast Asian country, comes after the Constitutional Court ruled that any criticism or comment on the monarchy amounted to treason.
âThe effect was chilling. We had to walk on eggshells [in our reporting of the pro-democracy protests] over the past year and now we’ll have to walk on eggshells and thin ice, âan editor at an English-language publication in Bangkok told UCA News on condition of anonymity.
Although the regulator said journalists working in Thailand remained free to cover pro-democracy protests, it warned them that coverage of protesters’ calls for monarchy reforms could be seen as repetition of the offense and lead to prosecution of journalists and the media.
A draconian royal libel law criminalizes any criticism of the royal family or the institution of monarchy in general in a country where the royal family is officially presented as a model of virtue and altruism.
It is the dawn of a dark new age in Thailand. Just get it wrong [political] public opinion makes you an enemy of the state
The latest restrictions on political reporting may cause the media to censor itself on the demands voiced by pro-democracy activists who see the monarchy as a sclerotic institution that is out of step with 21st century standards.
Thai media have generally been extremely cautious in reporting on protesters’ demands since youth-led street protests against the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha erupted in July last year.
According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, at least 155 activists, many of them minors, have been charged with royal libel, a felony punishable by 15 years in prison on one count.
Some protest leaders, who are currently in jail ahead of their trial, have been indicted on multiple occasions for their various statements, meaning they could potentially be sentenced to prison terms of decades, if not centuries.
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“It is the dawn of a new dark age in Thailand,” a pro-democracy activist told UCA News. “Just have the wrong [political] public opinion makes you an enemy of the state.
Even foreigners living in Thailand are not immune from prosecution if they express views in favor of pro-democracy activists and their demands.
Late last week, Thailand’s immigration department issued a deportation order against Yan Marchal, a French entrepreneur who runs a game development company and has lived in Thailand for 18 years, claiming that he represented “a danger to society” because of his political opinions.
Marchal has been outspoken on social media in his support for pro-democracy youth-led protests and activists’ calls for political reform in a country ruled by an army-allied government that seized power in a coup in 2014 after overthrowing a democratically elected government. .
I am possibly the first known case of deportation from Thailand without conviction or visa exceedance
In original and sarcastic videos on YouTube and TikTok, the French looked at the monarchy and the country’s government, which likely led to its expulsion.
“As many of you now know, I was refused entry to Thailand and sent back to France, simply because the powers that be don’t like what I post on social media.” , Marchal wrote on Facebook on November 28, shortly after being refused entry to Thailand on his return from France and being deported.
“I am perhaps the first known case of deportation from Thailand without conviction or visa exceeding,” said the Frenchman, who has children in Thailand.
âObviously, being deported to a place where Thai speech laws do not apply will not prevent me from posting more content,â he added.
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