PM Revokes Free Speech Gag Order

Prime Minister Meeting

A ban on activities vaguely termed as “the dissemination of information that may frighten people”, imposed under the emergency decree, has been revoked, following a court injunction against it.

Signed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the revocation of the 29th announcement was published on the Royal Gazette website and took effect on Monday.

State officials responsible for controlling the COVID-19 situation may instead use other regulations to deal with misinformation, which has been hindering their work, said the revocation announcement.

The Civil Court in Bangkok on Friday slapped an injunction on the prime ministerial order issued against the media that went into effect on 30th July.

It said the term “dissemination of information that may frighten people” was too ambiguous and broad, and resulted in the unnecessary deprivation of people’s rights and freedoms.

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

Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) officials said they had not yet enforced the regulation against anyone and could use other laws, which the court mentioned

The prime minister, therefore, decided to revoke the prime ministerial order.

The opposition, meanwhile, is petitioning the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to take action against Gen Chan-o-cha, accusing him of committing malfeasance by approving the order.

“After studying the court ruling, we have found that Gen Chan-o-cha’s actions involved misconduct on at least four counts,” chief opposition whip Sutin Klungsang said yesterday after submitting the petition to the NACC.

They were infringements against the public’s freedom to receive news and information as stated in Section 36 of the charter, malfeasance as stated in Section 172 of the National Anti-Corruption Act, dereliction of duty as stated in Section 157 of the Criminal Code and a violation of the ethical code of state officials, Mr Klungsang said.

He said he was petitioning the NACC to investigate this misconduct and forwarding the case to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions along with a request to impeach Gen Chan-o-cha.

If the court accepts the case for trial, Gen Chan-o-cha will therefore be required to immediately step down, at least temporarily, as prime minister, said Mr Klungsang, adding he was confident this petition will eventually lead to the premier’s impeachment.

Media outlets that joined the Human Rights Lawyer Alliance in signing the petition included: The Reporters, VoiceTV, The Standard, The Momentum, The Matter, Prachatai, Dem All, The People, Way Magazine, Echo and Plus Seven.