Court Rules Against PM’s Media Gag Order

Thai Prime Minister

The Civil Court in Bangkok yesterday put the brakes on a prime ministerial order issued against the media under the emergency decree, saying the order was ambiguous and broad in nature and deprived people of their rights and freedom.

The court order was in response to a petition submitted by 12 online media outlets and human rights lawyers who claimed the prime ministerial order threatened accurate media coverage and freedom of expression.

At the centre of the controversy were two regulations in the 29th announcement of the emergency decree which was signed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and went into effect on 30th July.

One regulation banned the distribution of information that might “frighten the public” and the other involved suspension of internet services to IP addresses that propagated information that may “frighten the public”.

The 12 parties who challenged the order insisted the wording might lead to an interpretation that any information that might frighten the public was prohibited no matter if it was a fact.

In its order, the Civil Court said the regulation which banned the dissemination of information having a risk of frightening people was ambiguous and broad.

The ban was not limited to false information, and therefore restricted the rights and freedoms of the 12 signatories and the public in general, it said.

Moreover, the phrase “information having a risk of frightening people” was vague and opened the possibility of a broad interpretation, rendering people feeling unsure about expressing their opinions, the court said.

The court said this resulted in unnecessary deprivation of people’s rights and freedoms and the announcement failed to provide criteria or guidelines for authorities to ensure appropriate treatment when enforcing the ban.