Thailand’s police announced a probe into four media outlets covering the ongoing anti-government protests on Monday, October 19. The probe was sanctioned in an order published on Friday and announced earlier today. The probe, sanctioned by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, will be conducted against four media outlets – Prachatai, The Reporters, Voice TV and The Standard – along with an online pro-protest page ‘Free YOUTH’.
The order will also include a probe into more than 300,000 URLs on social media and other digital platforms that the police have identified to be in violation of Thai laws. The digital ministry has also announced on Monday that it will seek a court order to block the four media groups, along with Free YOUTH and the identified URLs.
These moves by the police have prompted criticisms of the government of prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for stifling press freedoms in the country. Prachatai posted the probe order over Twitter, taking it as a matter of credit to its reporting on Thailand. “Honored to report accurate info about human rights and political development in Thailand, we’ll try our best in continuing to do so,” read the tweet by its English Twitter handle.
“Since the ban on protests did not work, the military-backed government hopes to create fear of telling the truth. We urge free media to resist,” said Emilie Palamy Pradichit, director of the digital rights advocacy group Manushya Foundation.
The military-supported government had declared a state of emergency last week, in a bid to end the protests that have been raging for over three months. The recent crackdown on digital media outlets and social media pages are part of the emergency measures imposed by the government.
Arrests of activists continue
The emergency orders followed demonstrations held at the Democracy Monument, in the national capital Bangkok, as a royal motorcade carrying the Queen and a prince passed by last week. Two activists, Ekachai Hongkangwan and Boonkueanoon Paothong, will be facing charges of “harming the liberty” of the Queen.
The charges, part of the nation’s stringent lèse majesté laws, carry anywhere between 16 to 20 years in prison in case of a conviction. Ekachai, who has previously served a prison sentence under these laws, was denied bail on Saturday over the charges and put under remand.
Despite the police crackdown, the protests have continued unabated. On Sunday, massive protests were witnessed across the national capital. The police estimates of the number of protesters show participation of over 20,000 people at various demonstrations in Bangkok. Protesters could be seen occupying major intersections and landmarks of the city.
This article first published in Peoples Dispatch.