Court orders ban on some VoiceTV content

Court orders ban on some VoiceTV content

Fate of Prachatai, The Reporters, The Standard yet to be decided

(Bangkok Post file photo)
(Bangkok Post file photo)

The Criminal Court has ordered blockage of some content of VoiceTV from all its online channels as requested by the Digital Economy Ministry, according to ministry deputy permanent-secretary Puchapong Nodthaisong.

For the other three news outlets the ministry had sought to block — Prachatai, The Reporters and The Standard — the court has yet to issue orders.

VoiceTV, an omni-platform news network owned by the Shinawatra family, broadcasts on satellite TV, a website, Facebook and YouTube.

Mr Puchapong said the ministry had found the news outlet broadcast false information in violation of the computer crime law and the emergency decree, which doesn’t allow an appeal. He did not give examples of such violations.

VoiceTV CEO Mekin Petchplai later issued a statement saying it had yet to see the order and would continue to do its duty. It insisted it had performed its duty with ethics and no distortions that may create a misunderstanding or undermine national security or public order. 

While the URLs for its content or certain programmes can be blocked immediately by local ISPs and mobile operators, it remains to be seen whether Facebook and YouTube will comply with the order issued under the state of emergency decree to block the same content, and if so, when.

Blocking something in social media, however, is easier said than done given the ease of opening a new account and the proliferation of virtual private networks, which mask the internet protocol (IP) address of a user so his online actions are virtually untraceable. 

In late August, the ministry sought a court order to block a Thai-language Facebook group it deemed critical of the monarchy. With more than 1 million members, the group at the time ranked among the world’s 25 largest on Facebook. Within minutes after the news spread, its administrator instructed members to migrate to another group he had just created. The new group had 1.9 million members as of Tuesday.

Mr Puchapong admitted the operator of VoiceTV could simply open a new Facebook or YouTube accounts to circumvent the ban but if they continued to spread fake news, they would be closed again.

Some news commentators at the channel vowed to continue doing their jobs but did not say exactly how.

A clampdown on dissent and freedom has been stepped up for a few days amid almost daily protests by young people for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign.

On Monday morning, the ministry asked ISPs and mobile operators to block Telegram messaging app after it had learned the youths had used it to arrange rally sites where they could gather within minutes.

In the afternoon, police visited Same Sky Publishing's office in Nonthaburi and seized three titles penned by two well-known academics on suspicions the books were critical of the monarchy.

The news led to reports of panic buying of the books. By Tuesday, none of them could be found at online bookstores in Thailand. For the latest title, a best-seller at the recent book fair, a message at the Same Sky bookstore says it is out of stock and a new edition will be available at the end of this month. 

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