Online crackdown continues: Thai junta sets up five panels to monitor media

The crackdown on Thai users continues as the Junta finds new means to block political dissent in the Kingdom following a recent coup. The independent Thai news service, Prachatai, reported on junta plans to establish new government working groups to identify information that threatens “national security” or promotes anti-junta “propaganda.”

Thai military led National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Deputy chief, Police General Adul Saengsingkaew, informed media of plans to establish a network of panels to closely monitor media content, both on and offline. “Police will not pursue legal action against media so long as journalists are cooperative and help share news that is constructive and true. Those that spread inappropriate content may face criminal charges,” Adul told Reuters.

According to reports, the panels will send weekly reports to Police General Adul Saengsingkaew on items deemed threatening to the NCPO and the Thai monarchy. The review panels will consist of various agencies assigned to monitor different types of content:

  • The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will monitor broadcast media.
  • The Special Branch Police will monitor print media.
  • The ICT ministry will monitor online media.
  •  The Foreign Ministry will monitor foreign media

Since the May 22 coup, the military junta shut down over 219 websites, as well as radio stations and television channels deemed “inappropriate” and a threat to national security. The junta recently went so far as to offer a $15 bounty for “those turning in photos or videos of anyone illegally expressing a political stance.”

These new rules come as junta authorities continue to use the Kingdom’s draconian lèse majesté law (Article 112) and Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act to prosecute individuals and deter free speech online. In a statement, the Thai Journalists Association warned that the NCPO’s guidelines are too broad and will likely result in violation of press freedoms across the Kingdom.

Access is concerned by these and other human rights violations threatening freedom of expression and association both online and offline. Access continues to monitor this developing situation, while providing internet users with tools and tips to access the web in a secure manner in Thailand.