After seizure of administrative power in
a coup, Thailand's military-led National Peace and Order Maintaining
Council ordered local broadcast media to halt regular programming and
local satellite and cable service providers to block international news
channels, according to news reports.
Such an order was strongly condemned by
the Committee to Protect Journalists that called for an immediate and
unconditional restoration of press freedom in the country.
Army Commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha announced the council's seizure
of power from Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan's caretaker
administration at around 4 p.m. after a meeting of opposing political
groups failed to reach an agreement on the creation of a new interim
Local broadcasters were forced, on May
22, 2014, to stop their regular programming and instead run still images
of the new ruling junta's banner against the backdrop of military songs,
according to social media posts and CPJ research. At around 8 p.m.,
several international broadcasters, including the BBC, CNN, and
Al-Jazeera, were also blocked inside the country. Military-run Channel 5
was the only local station allowed to continue broadcasting as usual,
said CPJ on the basis of information it gathered.
Later in the day, military officers
detained Wanchai Tantiwitthayapithak, deputy director of Thailand Public
Broadcasting Service, from the newsroom after the journalist aired news
on YouTube despite the military order, according to
"Today's military takeover represents a
clear and present danger to Thailand's long-held tradition of press
freedom," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's Southeast Asia representative,
adding, "While the new ruling junta may believe that media censorship is
necessary to restore stability and security, suppression of news is
likely to have the opposite effect. Broadcasters and journalists should
be free to report during this pivotal political moment in Thailand."
On Tuesday, Prayuth ordered the closure
of at least 11 satellite and cable TV stations and more than 3,000 radio
stations across the country in the name of restoring stability amid
rising tension between pro- and anti-government protest groups,
Troops were positioned inside the newsrooms of several local TV
stations, according to reports.
Local reports said that military
authorities, in cooperation with the state-run National Broadcasting and
Telecommunications Commission, had ordered more than 50 local Internet
service providers to filter within one hour any news or commentary
carried on their platforms that "distort facts, instigate disorder, or
create fear and misunderstanding." The local True Corporation shuttered
six unnamed websites in line with the martial law announcements, the
"Thailand's military has wrongly equated
censoring the media with restoring stability," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's
senior Southeast Asia representative on May 20, the day of imposition of
martial law demanding roll back of all martial law orders that aim to
suppress and control the media, and refrain from censoring the press.
“Thailand needs more, not less, open debate about its political
problems," she said.
[Based on CPJ Media