Thailand: Media outlet shutdown an attempt to stifle growing protest
Responding to news that a court in Thailand has upheld a government order to shut down "all platforms" of Voice TV, a Thai television channel, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, said:
"Voice TV has been doing its job, reporting on growing peaceful protests throughout the country. Like the charges against leading protesters, these tactics are clear attempts by the authorities to intimidate and harass people into silence.
"The harassment of media outlets is just one facet of the Thai authorities' current assault on communications channels, alongside threats to block the messaging platform Telegram and use of the Computer Crime Act, among other laws, against people for what they post and share online.
"Thai people of all ages are taking to the streets and growing the ranks of this peaceful youth-led movement. The Thai authorities should respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and media freedom. They should let people peacefully air their views, in the streets and on social media - and they should let journalists report on the developments.
“We again urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all peaceful protesters currently detained. Authorities should drop all charges against protesters and, pending this, ensure that all those charged have access to legal counsel.
"We also urge the authorities to rescind the ban on the Voice TV group and other media houses and allow the independent media to operate freely without any intimidation, harassment or fear of reprisals."
Targeting of media outlets and protestors
On Tuesday 20 October, the Thai criminal court upheld a government order by the Joint Command for the Administration of the Emergency Situation (JCAES) to shut down all TV and digital broadcasts of the Voice TV group. The order also targeted three other media outlets: Prachatai, The Standard and The Reporters, although there has yet to be a court decision in their cases. Authorities allege that these outlets have violated orders issued under the Emergency Decree announced last week. A spokesperson for the Ministry for the Digital Economy and Society added that Voice TV was also found to be in violation of the Computer Crime Act.
Since 13 October, the Thai authorities have detained at least 49 protesters, including some detained under emergency powers, including those announced earlier this year. A "severe" state of emergency was declared on 15 October 2020. Reports of new arrests and detention continue to rise. Protests have grown throughout Thailand demanding a new constitution, monarchy reform and an end to harassment against individuals critical of the authorities.
The authorities have already initiated criminal proceedings against at least 65 individuals during the year in connection with ongoing peaceful protests. Protesters have reported official harassment linked to their presence at assemblies, including house visits and threats of lawsuits.