Thailand Imposes Media and Internet Speech Restrictions in Wake of Coup

By: nart on 22 September 2006
Posted in Thailand, Asia

The military junta that deposed controversial Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra earlier this week has revoked all laws in the country and issued its own vague media restrictions requiring all media outlets to self-censor. Media are required to report only "positive" news and to refrain from reporting information that would "disturb the peace"--that is, news that portrays Thaksin or his allies in a positive light, or criticizes the junta, is illegal. "We want to give the media full freedom, but at this point as the situation is not normal yet, we have to seek media cooperation,'' Surasant Kongsiri, the junta's assistant spokesman said. "At this stage we are receiving very good cooperation from all. Please write positively.'' On September 19, the military leaders interrupted television and radio broadcasts for several hours, and there were reports of soldiers "guarding" newsrooms.

Websites in Thailand are also under scrutiny, with at least one local English-language blog--19Sep--ordered to shut down for running content contrary to the new government guidelines for media and speech. Attempting to access the blog now leads to an error page. The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) is reporting on its blog that hundreds of community radio stations have been shut down and self-censorship is increasing across the board as the media situation in Thailand "deteriorates".