Tuesday, 2024 March 5

Thai court lifts ban on online news site Voice TV amid ongoing protests

A Bangkok Criminal court has lifted its order to ban all online platforms of digital media Voice TV on Wednesday, a digital news outlet that was accused of breaching the Computer Crime Act and the emergency decree with “false information”, as anti-government protests intensify, according to a local news report.

Thailand’s digital ministry spokesman Putchapong Nodthaisong announced on Tuesday during a news conference that the government has obtained a court order to shut down the news outlet, which is currently broadcasting on satellite TV, its own website, Facebook, and YouTube.

The digital news outlet, which is owned by the family of former prime minister-turned-fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra, is among the four news outlets that the government has sought to ban. The court has also scrapped the suspension order on the other three news outlets—Prachatai, The Reporters, and The Standard—according to a report by local media outlet Prachatai.

The news took place shortly after a leaked government document ordered internet providers to block access to Telegram, a cloud-based messaging app that works with or without internet connection which is used by many pro-democracy protesters, according to a local news report.

According to Thailand’s Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, the government had plans to block over 2,000 websites before mid-September, including Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and YouTube channels, while anti-government protests that seek to curb the monarchy’s power are still taking place. However, the number of URLs on social media that the Thai government seeks to block has risen to 300,000, said Punnakanta during a press conference on October 19.

Social media companies have continued to encounter increasing pressure from the Thai government’s demand to take down content deemed defamatory to the country’s monarchy. Facebook, after bowing to the government to block access to the “Royalist Marketplace” group, where members discuss the Thai monarchy, planned to take legal actions to challenge the order.

“Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves,” Facebook’s spokesperson told KrASIA.

Tinder, a dating app, has also been embroiled in the dispute where several Thai citizens told international media Foreign Policy that their Tinder profiles were “suspended or restricted” after sharing pro-democracy content.

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