The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has voiced its continuing concern about internet censorship in Thailand, after the recent ratification of new cyber crime legislation.
According to IFJ sources, under the newly passed Computer-Related Offences Commission Act, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) has been given the authority to apply for judicial review in order to shut down websites. It is expected that such reviews would be merely a rubber-stamp process.
The Act reportedly lists 12 kinds of cyber crimes, for which punishment can range from fines to up to 20 years in jail.
Internet service providers must keep traffic data for 90 days, allowing the authorities to track and identify internet users and the sites they visit, IFJ sources report.
IFJ Asia-Pacific director Jacqueline Park said the Act goes too far and could be misused for stifling freedom of expression.
“There is a danger that by handing the government control of the internet, this law could be used as a tool for repression of independent voices,” Park said.
“The scope of the Act is such that the government could effectively suffocate political opposition and dissent,” she said.
MICT Minister Sitthichai Pookaiaudom reportedly ordered a block on video-sharing website YouTube in April, and critics say more than 17,000 sites have been shut down since the military took power in September 2006, a more than 500 percent increase.
“Around the world the internet poses huge new challenges for law-makers and law-enforcers,” Park said.
“But while we do not dispute the importance of fighting cyber crime, the IFJ is concerned this narrow protection of public welfare comes at the expense of the broader public good - and there are concerns the people of Thailand are unaware of the threat to their rights of expression.”
A petition to Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission regarding this issue has been set up by Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) and can be found at: http://facthai.wordpress.com/sign/.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries