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Order banning fear-inducing information repealed by PM

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: The controversial order banning fear-inducing information has been repealed. (via Onpolicy.org)

After widespread criticism from Thai media and human rights organisations, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has backed down and repealed his order banning posting information that could cause fear, regardless of whether it was true. The order was published in the Royal Gazette on July 29 and put into effect the next day, and last night the Gazette published the repeal of that order.

The original order had taken the law in place that could prosecute fake news and information and moved it further to include anything that might scare people, even if the information was completely true. This drew immediate condemnation as it prevented media from reporting facts and stifled free speech. For example, under that order, if a huge fire was spreading across Bangkok, it would technically be illegal to report on it, since the information could scare residents whose lives could be at risk.

The Civil Court suspended the order one week later on August 6, saying the decree was unconstitutional and was an overreach of power on the prime minister’s part. The court said as the order isn’t just banning the misinformation the order claimed to be targeting, so the broadness of the wording created an impingement of people’s constitutional freedom.

The vague wording included any distortion of information but also any information that causes fear, and also cites as justification that the information could affect national security and peace and order, but also includes the good morals of the people, leaving a wide opening for interpretation.

The law applied to print, broadcast, or internet, and included the instructions for the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to suspend internet service to any IP deemed to have made any statement falling into the categories outlined by the decree. The NBTC was further instructed to collect information from the user’s internet service provider and turn it over to the national police headquarters for prosecution, and to punish any ISP that doesn’t cooperate.

The Royal Gazette publication suggest the repeals was made begrudgingly as it states they believe the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration could ask the court to cancel the order but are repealing it themselves as it has yet to be enforced in any case, and other legal channels already exist to address the problem of misinformation the decree was purported to tackle.

SOURCE: Prachatai

 

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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