Thailand: Emergency Decree restricts press freedom

The Thai government has issued an emergency decree prohibiting gatherings of more than five people, alongside a nationwide ban on the broadcasting of news with the potential to incite fear. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns this restriction of media coverage and press censorship from the Thai government.

Pro-democracy protesters take part in a demonstration at a road intersection in Bangkok on October 15, 2020. Credit:Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP

The decree, installed at 4am on October 15, was initiated in response to student-led protests which are challenging the nation’s government and monarchy. Bangkok police have arrested at least 22 activists outside Government House of Thailand. The government claimed the state of emergency was provoked by a disruption to the queen’s motorcade as it passed by protesters and accused activists of creating “turbulence, chaos and disorder.”

Under the decree the publishing or broadcasting of any news or information that may provoke public fear will be banned nationwide.

In direct defiance of the decree, thousands of pro-democracy protestors gathered in Bangkok on the evening of October 15 for a nonviolent exhibition of opposition and dispersed peacefully at 6pm. The emergency order comes after months of protests that have called for the dissolution of parliament, introduction of a new constitution and an end to the harassment of government critics.

The IFJ said the decree opens the door for on intense government press censorship, which will place further restrictions on the ability of journalists to cover protests and the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations.

The IFJ said: The introduction of this emergency order not only unjustly suppresses peaceful demonstrations and freedom of expression, it also severely limits press freedom and the ability of journalists to engage in impartial coverage of the protests. The IFJ demands for the immediate removal of this decree and guarantees on the rights of journalists to freely report in Thailand.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

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

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