Thailand: Emergency Law will further erode press freedom

The military backed government in Thailand imposed a one-month state of emergency on March 26 to control Covid-19, allowing authorities to impose restrictions on the media. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the all forms of pressure for press freedom taken by the government amid the global health crisis.

A giant advertisement screen shows information about the COVID-19 coronavirus on a deserted street in one of the most touristic areas of Bangkok on March 26, 2020. Credit: Mladen Antonov/AFP

Thailand’s prime minister,Prayuth Chan-Ocha said the state of emergency will increase the country’s efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic that has infected hundreds of people in the region. The decree gives the prime minister powers to take down articles and shut down media houses if authorities considered the news item to cause unrest or frighten people.

Further, the prime minister called on the media outlets to verify and check the facts with a special communications team, consisting of medical experts who will hold daily press briefings. The prime minister emphasised enforcement would be stricter to tackle the ‘improper use of social media.’

The Disease Control Department (DCD) projected the number of Covid-19 infections might reach  3,000 by the end of April. The DCD on March 26 reported 111 new Covid-19, taking the total of positive patients to 1,045. Four people have died from coronavirus in Thailand.

According to the Bangkok Post, the government has been criticised by citizens and the media for failing to take strong action to tackle the spread of Covid-19. The article states people believe the government lack transparency which is essential to tackle Covid-19.

The IFJ said: “Strong attempts to fight the coronavirus pandemic must not sacrifice press freedoms or freedom of speech. The IFJ condemns the governments’ response, urging the prime minister to resolve the virus instead of imposing media restrictions.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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