Prayut threatens media outlets with strict cyber law
The Computer Crime Act will be rigorously enforced against online media that distort facts and disseminate "fake reports and hate speech", Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha threatened Tuesday.
"I don't want to make enemies. But society needs to function in an orderly fashion. No matter who you are, if you twist the facts, write what is not true or incite hatred, you will face legal action," he said.
The premier explained that although the act is already in place, its enforcement will be strengthened. He also suggested that his political critics were not immune.
He said the measure was recommended by King Prajadhipok's Institute, which advised the government to use the act to stop the proliferation of hate speech and fake news to bring about greater order in society.
"I don't want to bully anyone. But if you damage the country, you need to be sued. Otherwise I cannot ensure order in society. I never bully the media.
"Has anyone been jailed? Has anyone been sued? But outlaws need to be sued," the premier said.
Gen Prayut did not go into detail about which media houses and issues he has concerns about.
When questioned by reporters on the issue, he said only: "Do you listen to music on Voice TV? Sorry, not Voice TV, but The Voice."
In an apparently sarcastic tone, he added, "Those at Voice TV are my dear friends so I always remember it. The channel blesses me every day. I just need to watch a little bit to know what they say [about me and the government].
"I was very angry before, but now it's gone. Let's see, law enforcement is coming," Gen Prayut said.
Voice TV, in which the Shinawatra clan has a stake, is a digital TV channel which also runs its content on an online platform.
Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the intention is not to monitor media who play by the rules but to monitor online media and netizens whose identities are usually unknown and operate in the dark.
He said the prime minister has been advised by various national reform committees to toughen the use of the act to stop the spread of hatred and fake news.
Lt Gen Sansern also said the prime minister has asked every ministry and the Government Spokesman Bureau to compel agencies under their authority to be vigilant in monitoring social media and online news entities that publish information relating to the government's work.
He added the prime minister urged the heads of agencies affected by fake news and inaccurate information to press charges against those spreading it, if they find the information published breaches the Computer Crime Act and has the capacity to cause disorder in society.